With the lambing season now underway, dog owners are being reminded to keep their pets on a lead near livestock to help stop animals being hurt or killed.
Livestock worrying is the term used when a dog is loose around farm animals on agricultural land and acts in a way which could cause injury or suffering, such as alarming, chasing or attacking them.
It is a criminal offence, and under the law, a dog worrying livestock can be shot and killed. Owners are responsible for keeping their dog under control, or can face a fine of up to £1,000. In 2018, Northamptonshire Police received at least 30 reports of livestock worrying, including instances of sheep found dead or injured.
PC Abbey Anstead, wildlife and rural crime officer with Northamptonshire Police, said: “Every year the force receives reports of livestock, especially sheep and lambs, being killed or injured by dogs, and a farmer whose animals are at risk of harm is within their rights to shoot the dog responsible.
“Whether farmer or pet owner, the death of an animal is devastating, but all of this is completely avoidable if people walking dogs keep them on a lead and under control around farm animals.
“This simple measure is part of responsible dog ownership, helps to protect pets and livestock alike, and means everyone can enjoy the countryside safely.”
She added that incidents of livestock worrying should be reported to police on the non-emergency 101 number. If a dog is in the process of worrying livestock and cannot be stopped, dial 999.
Anyone who shoots a dog to prevent livestock worrying must notify police within 48 hours.
Livestock worrying facts
Animals classed as livestock include sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, horses, donkeys, mules and poultry, including chicken, turkeys, geese and ducks.
Agricultural land includes land used as arable, meadow or grazing land, for poultry farming, pig farming and market gardens, as well as allotments, nursery grounds and orchards.
Tips for safe and responsible dog walking around livestock
- Keep dogs on a lead and under control when walking through fields of livestock
- Always stick to public rights of way and leave all gates as you found them
- If you live beside land where livestock is grazed ensure you know where your dog is at all times, and keep your property secure so your dog cannot escape
- Cows can be curious and may follow walkers. If this happens, keep facing the animal and move calmly and slowly, don’t turn your back to it or run
- Steer well clear of young animals and do not try to pet them. Cows with calves will be protective and may become aggressive
- If you feel threatened by cattle when with a dog, let go of the lead so you and the dog can get to safety separately