Visitors urged to follow rules in countryside

Spring visitors to the countryside are being urged to keep their dogs under control as farmers brace themselves for a wave of attacks on their sheep over Easter.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 1:53 pm
Picture Bruce Rollinson

Leading rural insurer NFU Mutual is concerned that the Easter break could see an influx of walkers unfamiliar with the Countryside Code and unaware of how their new lockdown dogs will behave around livestock.

Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “These attacks cause immense suffering to animals and are devastating for farmers.

“Dog attacks are easily preventable if owners keep their pets under control and on a lead when livestock may be nearby.

“Doing so keeps sheep and their lambs safe from harm and stops a country walk turning into carnage.”

She added that it is a critical time for farmers as the spring lambing period is now well underway, meaning ewes and new born lambs are often grazing close to footpaths, which can put them at risk of dog attacks.

According to a survey of dog owners commissioned by NFU Mutual, 88 per cent of people say they now walk their dog in the countryside.

While 64 per cent of dog owners say they let their dog run free in the countryside - half admit their pet doesn’t always come back when called.

Many farm animals are seriously injured or killed each year in dog attacks. Livestock worrying cost the North East region an estimated £241,000 last year, according to NFU Mutual statistics.

Across the UK, the cost of dog attacks rose by over 10 per cent in 2020 to an estimated £1.3m.

Even if dogs don’t make contact, the distress of the chase can also cause sheep to die, miscarry and separate lambs from their mothers.

Walkers are also being urged to report any incidents of livestock worrying they may witness.

The ‘What3Words’ app can be used to pinpoint an exact location, so they can report where they have seen an incident to within a 3m x 3m area.

“Attacks can leave livestock with painful injuries, so prompt and accurate information could save animals hours of suffering,” said an NFU Mutual spokesman.