Plea to protect sheep and newborn lambs

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2nd March 2022

Plea to protect sheep and newborn lambs as more owners let dogs run free and cost of attacks reaches £1.5m  

  • Worries pregnant ewes and newborn lambs are under increased risk this spring from out-of-control dogs 
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of dog owners are now letting their pet roam free in the countryside (up from 64% last year)  
  • Almost half of dog owners (49%) admit their dog doesn’t always come back when called  
  • Growing concerns a new generation of dog owners with pandemic puppies are unaware of the harm their dog could cause  
  • NFU Mutual statistics reveal farm animals worth an estimated £1.5m were injured and killed last year 
    With peak lambing season underway, NFU Mutual is calling for dog owners to ensure their pets are under control at all times when livestock are nearby. 
    NFU Mutual research* released today (Wednesday 2 March) found almost three quarters of dog owners (73%) now allow their pets to roam off-lead in the countryside – up from (64%) a year ago. This is despite around half (49%) saying their dog doesn’t always come back when called.  
    The leading rural insurer estimates that farm animals worth £1.52m were injured or killed by dogs in the UK last year.  
    Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said:  
    “Behind the figures, these horrific attacks are causing unbearable suffering to farm animals and anxiety for farmers as they deal with the aftermath.  
    “There’s a new generation of dog owners whose pandemic puppies are coming of age and they simply don’t know how their dog is going to behave around livestock.  
    “It’s hard for people to imagine that their affectionate, family pet could injure or kill another animal and it’s not only physical attacks that can harm livestock.  Even if a small dog chases sheep and they don’t make contact, they can separate lambs from their mothers or the distress and exhaustion from the chase can cause a pregnant ewe to die or miscarry.”  
    In England last year the worst hit regions by cost were the South East, with farm animals worth an estimated £266,000 killed or injured by dogs; followed by the Midlands (£242,000) and the South West (£228,000).   
    Rebecca Davidson added: “Livestock attacks can have a huge impact on farmers’ livelihoods. While insurance can cover the cost of replacing stock killed and the treatment of injured animals, there is a knock-on effect on breeding programmes that can take years to overcome.  
    “We want people to enjoy the countryside and recognise the huge benefit it brings to people’s wellbeing. We’re simply asking for people to keep their dogs under control and on a lead.”  
    With many dog owners planning to visit the countryside during coming weeks, as the weather improves and sheep are at their most vulnerable, NFU Mutual is calling for dog owners to:  
    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 cause the distress, injury and death of farm animals 
    Report attacks by dogs to the police or local farmers 
    Don’t let dogs loose unsupervised in gardens near livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and attack sheep grazing nearby 
    * 1,207 UK dog owners were interviewed by PetBuzz between 23/12/2021 and 06/01/2022. 
    For further information and case studies contact: 
    Rebecca Davidson 
    NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist 
    Direct Dial: 07583 009 448 

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