Owners Urged to Keep Dogs Under Control Around Livestock

UK - Dog walkers may enjoy the autumn but vigilance is needed around livestock to avoid costly accidents, especially at mating and when animals are in early pregnancy, warns the National Farmers Union.
calendar icon 29 October 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

Tupping and mating happens at this time of year when ewes and cows get more worried and stressed which can lead to early abortion. Bulls and rams can also be more agitated during this period.

The NFU’s Love your Countryside campaign is highlighting the issue all this week to make the public more aware that extra care should be taken when out walking with dogs.

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “Farms are working environments and farmers always think very carefully about where they keep their livestock at this time of the year. So if you’re out walking your dog please be sympathetic especially to those animals rearing their young and give them space.

“When walking with dogs in fields with livestock, the advice is to keep your dog close, under effective control, and on a short lead. If you feel threatened release your dog so you can both get to safety separately.

“Remember that our animals are our livelihood and we can’t risk having them distressed, hurt or killed by dogs with irresponsible owners. So, be responsible by following a few simple do’s and don’ts and back British farming. ”

Somerset farmer and NFU livestock board member, James Small, has had several sheep attacked by out of control dogs.

“It's really important for us as farmers to ensure that our animals are in the best possible condition and in the autumn the rams are introduced to the ewes for tupping to ensure as many as possible are pregnant.

“Sadly, all of this hard work can be undone through one thoughtless action; we've had dogs attack sheep in the past, causing them to panic and scatter which can lead to them aborting their lambs. In the worse instances, the dog, or dogs catch the sheep and attack it, leading to serious injury or death for the sheep.

“Please follow the countryside code when out with your dog and please keep it on a short lead and under control. Provided visitors follow the advice to keep themselves and the animals that are grazing safe, there shouldn't be any problems.”

President of the British Veterinary Association John Blackwell said: “Leisure time helps us all recharge our batteries and is an important part of modern life. We also live in a country that has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world and we want to enjoy it. Open access to the countryside is important and it’s a good environment to give your dogs the exercise they need.

“But we need to be sure that our dogs are under control particularly around livestock. The very presence of an unfamiliar dog in a field of livestock will immediately put the stock on alert, and this will be even more so if they are free ranging.

"It can also have some quite nasty consequences to enter a field of cattle with a dog, as the perceived threat can escalate to a situation when the cows go into maternal protective mode and charge to try and remove the threat. Thankfully we see rare occurrences of this but we do hear of fatal consequences’ every year.”

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