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Rise in cost of dog attacks on farm animals

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2nd February 2021

Cost of dog attacks on farm animals rises to estimated £1.3m as pandemic sees surge in pet ownership and countryside visitors

NFU Mutual statistics reveal the cost of dog attacks on farm animals increased by over 10% in 2020 

64% of dog owners say they let their pet roam free in the countryside - yet half admit their dog doesn’t always come back when called

Growing concerns the spring lockdown will see an influx of walkers unfamiliar with the countryside code and unaware of how their new dogs will behave around livestock

Sheep farmers under stress as they enter the peak lambing period when pregnant ewes and new born lambs are vulnerable to attack

New statistics released by leading rural insurer NFU Mutual today (Tuesday 2 February), reveal the cost of dog attacks on farm animals across the UK rose by over 10% to an estimated £1.3m last year.

A recent survey of dog owners commissioned by NFU Mutual in January 2021 reveals that 64% of dog owners are letting their pets roam free in the countryside, despite half of owners surveyed admitting their dog doesn’t always come back when called.

The research revealed that 42% of dog owners have been walking their pets more often in the countryside during the pandemic, and that 81% of survey respondents have noticed more people exercising their pets in rural areas. 

“With millions more people walking in the countryside as COVID restrictions continue and an increase in dog ownership, we have seen many more horrific attacks resulting in large numbers of sheep being killed and a trail of horrific injuries,” said Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual.

“These attacks cause unbearable suffering to farm animals as well as huge anxiety for farmers and their families as they deal with the aftermath.

“It’s a critical time in the farming calendar and there is widespread concern as we enter the peak lambing season, that there will be a surge in new visitors who are simply unaware of the countryside code or how their dog will behave around farm animals.

“We want people to enjoy the countryside as it’s so important for people’s wellbeing. It’s vital that dog owners act responsibly and keep dogs on a lead whenever there is a possibility livestock are nearby.”

Alarmingly, only 40% of the dog owners surveyed accepted that their pet could cause the injury or death of a farm animal.

Rebecca explained, “Even if a dog doesn’t make physical contact, the distress and exhaustion of the chase can cause sheep to die or miscarry their lambs. It’s important that owners realise that all dog breeds, not just the big, fierce looking ones, are capable of attacking livestock, or chasing them.

“Although we had seen some encouraging decreases in the overall UK cost of livestock attacks over the last two years, sadly 2020 has seen an upward trend.”

Owners’ responses to seeing dogs attacking livestock have also changed during the pandemic, with only 33% saying they would report an attack taking place to police or a local farmer.

In 2020, the worst-affected region by cost was the North East, where farm animals worth an estimated £240,000 were savaged by dogs. The next most seriously-affected areas were the Midlands, South West and Wales.

With lambing season approaching and many more people planning to walk in the countryside - including those with new lockdown puppies - NFU Mutual is calling for dog owners to keep their pets under control at all times.

To make dog walking safe, NFU Mutual is issuing the following advice:

  • Always keep dogs on the lead when walking in rural areas where livestock are kept but let go of the lead if chased by cattle
  • Be aware that even small dogs can chase, injure and kill farm animals
  • Take special care to keep close control of dogs unused to farm animals
  • Report attacks by dogs and sightings of dogs roaming the countryside to the police or local farmers
  • Don’t let dogs loose and unsupervised in gardens adjoining livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and attack sheep grazing nearby

Advice on preventing dogs attacking livestock is available from NFU Mutual’s website:


Notes to editor:
Regional case studies available
Spokespeople are available for interview.
Petbuzz Market Research surveyed 1,237 dog owners on behalf of NFU Mutual from 23 December 2020 and 12 January 2021.
Estimated costs are based on claims reported to NFU Mutual in 2020.

For further information and case studies please contact:
Rebecca Davidson
Rural Affairs Specialist
Mobile: 07583 009448

Kay Henderson
Press Officer
Mobile: 07980 793354

About NFU Mutual:

NFU Mutual offers a wide range of products, including general insurance, life, pensions, and investments. These products and services are delivered through our network of NFU Mutual Agent offices, as well as through our direct sales and service centres. With over 300 local businesses located in rural towns and villages throughout the UK, NFU Mutual has become part of the fabric of rural life and remains committed to serving the needs of our members nationwide.

NFU Mutual is proud to deliver more than simply insurance. Making farming safer, supporting rural initiatives across the UK and helping to look after the environment are just some of the ways we do that. To find out more about everything we do to support our communities, visit