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Keep dogs under control in the countryside, urges NFU Mutual, after rise in number of farm animals killed


By Jonathan Clark

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DOG walkers are being urged to keep their pet under control after a rise in the number of farm animals being attacked and killed in recent days.

Leading rural insurer NFU Mutual is concerned walkers are unaware of the threat their dogs can cause to animals, and have urged caution.

NFU Mutual’s claims figures show that livestock worth £1.2m were attacked by dogs last year in the UK.

And, due to social distancing measures, there has been a rise in the number of people using farmland to walk their dog. This has led to a spate of attacks which has left several sheep, including new-born lambs, dead.

Dog walkers have been urged to keep their pets on leads while walking in rural areas.
Dog walkers have been urged to keep their pets on leads while walking in rural areas.

Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, said: "These horrific attacks have left a trail of dead and seriously-injured sheep and new-born lambs so we are urging dog walkers to keep their pets on the lead at all times when exercising them in countryside where livestock are reared.

"Walking dogs on a lead also ensures people can safely keep two metres away from others.

"Livestock worrying causes appalling suffering to sheep and lambs – and during the coronavirus crisis the threat of attacks it is adding to farmers’ and crofters’ anxiety when they are already under immense pressure. Even if a dog doesn’t make contact, the distress and exhaustion of the chase can cause a sheep to die.

"Some farming areas are experiencing increased numbers of walkers with dogs, with farmers having to spend additional time patrolling flocks to try and prevent attacks which is hindering them from getting on with the vital task of producing food for the nation."

Farmers' union NFU Scotland and the National Sheep Association are also calling for walkers to be sensible. Gemma Cooper, head of policy at NFU Mutual said: "Those who are accessing the countryside with dogs need to be aware that there is still livestock in the fields and that their dog can and will attack sheep and cows.

"Avoid fields with livestock where possible, keep your dog under control and remember to pick up after them."

The National Sheep Association also urged vigilance.
The National Sheep Association also urged vigilance.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker added: "There is no doubt this lockdown is difficult and is taking its toll on the British people. We are all feeling the effect, and NSA completely understands the frustration and the want to get outside. However, we must not forget that the fields we are walking across are where our food is produced, and by being there we put the people producing our food at risk."

Walkers are also urged to clear up after their dog to avoid the spread of disease to livestock.

Advice on preventing dogs attacking livestock is available from NFU Mutual’s website at www.nfumutual.co.uk/news-and-stories/preventing-dog-attacks-on-farm-animals/.

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