Sheep and two lambs in grass field

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Preventing dog attacks on farm animals

As the insurer of three quarters of the UK’s farmers, we are sadly all too aware of the heartbreak and distress that dog attacks on livestock cause.

That’s why we’re urging dog owners to keep their pets on a lead at all times in the countryside and for people to report out-of-control dogs to a local farmer or the police.

Known as livestock worrying, dog attacks on farm animals can result in horrific and often fatal injuries. Even if a dog doesn’t make contact, the distress of a chase can cause sheep to miscarry their lambs and sometimes die from exhaustion.

2020 saw the cost of these attacks rise by over 10% across the UK to an estimated £1.3m.

To help farmers tackle livestock worrying, we are calling for dog owners to keep their pets under control, particularly at a time when we have seen an influx of walkers in the countryside and surge in dog ownership over lockdown.

We have commissioned research* into dog owners’ attitudes to exercising dogs in the countryside and have launched a campaign to highlight the importance of keeping dogs under control.

Research key findings

The research revealed that 42% of dog owners have been walking their pets more often in the countryside during the pandemic, and that 81% have noticed more dog walkers.

64% percent 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.

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

Advice for dog owners:

  • Always keep dogs on the lead when walking in rural areas where livestock are kept
  • Be aware that even small lap dogs can attack 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 local farmers or the police
  • Don’t let dogs loose in gardens adjoining livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and attack sheep grazing nearby

Advice for farmers:

  • Information and advice on how to protect your stock and a breakdown on what laws are currently in place to help farmers and punish offenders can be found in our farmers guide for dealing with livestock worrying
  • Our Farming Insurance can help protect your livelihood whether you have a small holding with a few animals or a larger, more complex operation

*Survey conducted alongside Petbuzz Market Research on behalf of NFU Mutual in January 2021

Understanding and combatting dog attacks on sheep

There’s been a worrying spike in incidents of ‘Livestock Worrying’. To understand this better and talk about what’s being done to combat it Will talks to Rob Taylor from North Wales Police rural crime team, Debs Roberts, a Scottish farmer and co-founder of ‘Ladies who Lamb’ and NFU Mutual farming specialist, David Harrison.

Understanding and combatting dog attacks on sheep transcript