Dogs & Sheep

Countryside Code CoverRecently (March 2016) there has been a report of dog owners allowing their animals to run loose amongst heavily pregnant sheep in fields near Hodnet village.
Allowing pets to do this causes stress to farm animals at all times, but it is especially traumatic for expectant ewes.
The Countryside Code reminds dog owners:
it’s always good practice (and a legal requirement on ‘open access’ land) to keep your dog on a lead around farm animals and horses, for your own safety and for the welfare of the animals. A farmer may shoot a dog which is attacking or chasing farm animals without being liable to compensate the dog’s owner
Local residents and visitors are reminded of the need to take responsibility for their dogs when using footpaths across farmland. The Code seeks to encourage good practice in this respect and several others. Here it is in outline:

The Countryside Code

Respect. Protect. Enjoy

Respect other people

  • Consider the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors
  • Leave gates and property as you find them and follow paths unless wider access is available

Protect the natural environment

  • Leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home
  • Keep dogs under effective control

Enjoy the outdoors

  • Plan ahead and be prepared
  • Follow advice and local signs

The expanded version of the Countryside Code can be viewed on-line at Gov.UK or downloaded as PDF leaflet.
The Kennel Club offer this advice to dog owners:

  • Control your dog so that it does not scare or disturb farm animals or wildlife.
  • When using the new access rights over open country and common land, you must keep your dog on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July – and all year round near farm animals – and you may not be able to take your dog at all on some areas or at some times. Please follow any official signs.
  • You do not have to put your dog on a lead on public paths, as long as it is under close control. But as a general rule, keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience. By law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals.
  • If a farm animal chases you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead – don’t risk getting hurt by trying to protect it.
  • Take particular care that your dog doesn’t scare sheep and lambs, or wander where it might disturb birds that nest on the ground and other wildlife – eggs and young will soon die without protection from their parents.
  • Everyone knows how unpleasant dog mess is and it can cause infections, so always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly. Also, make sure your dog is wormed regularly to protect it, other animals and people.

The National Farmers Union is also concerned about irresponsible dog owners and encourages people to enjoy the countryside by:

  • Control your dog – If you have a dog with you keep it close by your side and under control. Where there are cows and sheep put it on a lead. Remember, cows are nosey and may come to investigate, if you feel threatened release your dog to allow it to run to safety. Unfortunately hundreds of sheep are killed every year by dogs off of the lead and many more lose unborn lambs from sheep worrying. Farmers really appreciate considerate dog walkers.
  • Bag it and bin it – Unfortunately, dogs can spread diseases to farm animals, such neospora, but most can easily be prevented by ensuring you clean up after your dog. Not letting your dog climb into drinking troughs and making sure their worming regime is up to date make a real difference too.

They also report on a terrible event on just a few days ago: UK’s worst sheep worrying incident – 116 dead.

More than one hundred sheep have died in the UK’s worst sheep-worrying incident in living memory near Chichester in West Sussex.The horrific discovery was made by farmer Gordon Wyeth at the West Dean Estate early on Monday afternoon (March 7).
The sheep, many of them pregnant, had been herded into a tight group against a fence and gate bordering woodland where they had panicked and had either died from shock or by being crushed in the flock.
A total of 116 sheep, worth about £17,000, died in the field just north of the A286, near the old railway bridge at the eastern end of the village.

Please don’t allow something similar to happen in this area!

UK's worst sheep worrying incident - 116 dead
Picture of the aftermath from March 9th incident – source NFU website.