Sheep and two lambs in grass field

Article

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 are 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.

We believe that a significant proportion of attacks are now caused by owners who let their dogs roam from homes adjoining the countryside and either aren’t aware that they are attacking farm animals - or don’t care.

To help farmers tackle livestock worrying, 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

Although more dog owners are putting their pets on leads while walking them when livestock are nearby, more owners are allowing their pets to go out in the garden unaccompanied when they're out despite one in six owners admitting their dog has escaped from home.

Most dog owners support tougher penalties for owners whose pets are responsible for attacks. Three quarters said they would support heavier fines, two thirds would support a ban on dogs from livestock fields during lambing season, while 57% would back laws enabling DNA testing of dogs suspected of attacking sheep and 42% would support owners being banned from keeping dogs if their pet had been involved in an attack.

Advice for dog owners:

  • Always keep dogs on the lead when walking them in rural areas where livestock are kept
  • Be aware that even small lap dogs can attack and kill farm animals
  • Report attacks by dogs and sightings of dogs roaming the countryside to local farmers or the police
  • Familiarise puppies with farm livestock from a young age to reduce the risk of them attacking sheep or cattle as adult dogs
  • 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