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Livestock worrying - advice for dog owners

Livestock worrying - advice for dog owners

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As the weather improves and dog owners head to the countryside to exercise their pets, a warning has been issued following a rise in livestock worrying.

When pregnant ewes and newborn lambs are grazing on low-lying pasture in areas more accessible to walkers, the average cost of insurance claims to NFU Mutual more than doubles compared to the rest of the year.

The distressing result of farm animals being attacked by dogs can also have serious financial consequences for farmers. Livestock worrying costs have increased by 67% in the past two years (2015-2017), with an estimated cost to agriculture of £1.6m.

An NFU Mutual survey of more than 1,000 pet owners from across the UK has revealed more than 80% of dog owners exercise their pets in the countryside, with over 60% letting them roam off the lead. The survey, carried out by Petbuzz Market Research, also showed almost 7% of owners admitted that their pets had chased livestock in the past.

Advice for dog owners:

  • Always keep dogs on the lead when walking them in rural areas where livestock are kept

  • Be aware that even small lap dogs can attack farm animals

  • Report attacks by dogs and sightings of dogs roaming the countryside to local farmers or the police

  • Familiarise puppies with farm livestock from a young age to reduce the risk of them attacking sheep or cattle as adult dogs

  • Don’t let dogs loose in gardens adjoining livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs that escape and worry sheep grazing nearby.

NFU Mutual comment:

Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Attacks by dogs are one of livestock farmers’ worst nightmares. In addition to the suffering to the animals, attacks can have a severe financial impact. 

“Insurance can cover the cost of replacing stock killed and the treatment of injured animals, but there’s a knock-on effect on farm profits when pregnant sheep, chased by dogs, lose lambs.

“While attacks can be caused by dogs ranging from the smallest pampered pets to the largest, fierce-looking animals, we’re hearing that large husky breeds are involved in a lot of the more recent cases. 

“We’re also getting reports that many attacks are being caused by dogs which have been let out in owners’ gardens and escaped to worry sheep in neighbouring fields. 

“As the insurer of nearly three-quarters of the UK’s farmers and many hobby farmers, we understand the heartbreak and huge financial loss that dog attacks cause.”

Tags: Livestock

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