‘Keep dogs on leads at all times’

Dog attacks on sheep have become common.
Dog attacks on sheep have become common.

Sickening attacks on sheep by unleashed dogs have been a common occurrence in Cookstown and Magherafelt over the past number of years.

And this week, the British Veterinary Association is asking dog owners to support a new campaign and keep their pets on leads near livestock, as recent figures illustrate that attacks have risen by more than 50 per cent in the last three years.

The campaign, spearheaded by the Farmers Guardian, aims to improve relationships in rural areas by encouraging walkers to keep dogs on lead near livestock.

New figures, obtained by the farming publication from Freedom of Information requests to UK police forces, showed there were more than 1,000 attacks on livestock by dogs in 2013, up from 691 in 2011.

In Magherafelt in 2008 a vicious dog attack in South Derry left 27 sheep dead.

The incident at Glengomna Road, outside Draperstown, was one of the worst cases of sheep worrying in the Magherafelt District Council area for several years.

And in Cookstown there were similar attacks which resulted in the deaths of a large number of sheep.

Speaking to the MAIL, one of the victims, said she welcomed this move by the BVA.

British Veterinary Association (BVA) President and vet Robin Hargreaves said these figures make disturbing reading for anyone with an interest in animal welfare.

“Our members see first hand the terrible consequences when dogs are not kept under control around livestock, especially during lambing season.

“Chasing and attacks can lead to serious injuries, fatalities and spontaneous abortion for sheep and other livestock. The results of these avoidable attacks are deeply distressing for the animal, the farmer and for the vet,” he said.

Mr Hargreaves said the BVA didn’t want to discourage people from walking their dogs in the countryside.

“It’s great exercise and has health benefits for both owner and pet. However, responsible ownership, including keeping dogs on lead when necessary, is the cornerstone of good relationships between dog owners and farmers,” he added.

He pointed out that most owners are well meaning but if a dog is out of sight they may not even be aware of the chasing or attack.

“It is good practice for owners to keep dogs on leads at all times when walking near livestock but it is particularly important during the spring. Attacks early in the year often lead to lambs being lost and sheep being killed and injured,” he added.

For more information and advice from vets on animal welfare issues visit the BVA website at www.bva.co.uk/news