As lambing season approaches, dog owners must be more vigilant than ever before, particularly when exercising their pets on agricultural land, in the countryside and in forests. Lambing can take place anytime between November and May, but the birth rate typically peaks in March. Every year in the UK, an estimated 15000 sheep are killed by dogs. Already this year, there have been 19 reported attacks in Dartmoor alone.
If a dog is involved in worrying sheep on agricultural land, the owner is guilty of a criminal offence, according to the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953. Criminal proceedings may be brought against them, and, in some cases, the dog may be euthanised.
With this in mind, agricultural experts at Apton Plant provide tips on being a responsible dog owner this spring.
Why should dog owners care?
“With more than 15 million ewes in fields across the UK, the lambing season is an intense and stressful period for farmers. The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act of 1953, which was devised to protect livestock from attack by canines, outlines punishments for dog owners who allow their dogs to worry livestock on agricultural land. Sadly, dog attacks continue to blight our countryside.
“Last January, 27 sheep were found dead following a dog attack in north Wales. During lambing season, sheep worrying may cause pregnant ewes to miscarry. Sheep fleeing from dogs, meanwhile, may be seriously injured in an attempt to escape, or receive traumatic wounds from dog bites. Dog owners have both a legal and ethical responsibility to protect livestock.”
Our tips for responsible dog walking
“Make sure to be vigilant at all times when walking in the countryside. Keep an eye out for any livestock. Keep your dog on a lead wherever possible, even in fields without livestock, unless they have perfect recall. Keep control of your dog, shortening the lead if necessary. Avoid using an extendable lead, as these can result in lacerated tracheas, neck wounds and spinal injuries. If you own a breed with a high prey drive, such as a lurcher, collie or greyhound, consider muzzling your dog. Use one with an open basket weave, as these allow dogs to breathe freely.
Try to stick to footpaths and public rights of way. If you live near a field with livestock, make sure to secure your property to prevent your dog from escaping. Remember that many dogs are able to jump over high fences. According to the Kennel Club, up to 70% of attacks on livestock happen when a dog is isolated from its owner.
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