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Make sure your dog is nothing to worry about

Countryside Alliance urge the public to keep dogs on leads in the countryside after rise in livestock worrying.

There have been a number of stories in the press recently revealing various dog attacks on livestock throughout rural communities.

To anyone who is not familiar with the concept of 'worrying', you might not think much of it if your dog runs off to a local field where livestock is kept. You may think that simply calling your dog back to you will do the trick, and that if the dog has caused no physical harm – that you can see – then no harm done.

Livestock worrying is a serious issue facing many farmers today, with unsuspecting dog owners knowing no different. We believe it is time to ramp up the awareness of livestock worrying by reiterating the detrimental, and sometimes deadly, consequences that worrying can have. All kinds of livestock, from sheep and lambs to cattle and horses are affected by worrying. Some are being savaged on site, whilst others are impacted in different ways. This can include ewes aborting due to stress and animals dying of exhaustion after being chased. As a passer-by, you never know the extent of the damage that may have been caused.

The wider public must start to acknowledge the damage that can be done by dogs being off leads when near livestock. The more we raise awareness and educate on what to do in such situations, the better. This guide on our website, although directed at sheep worrying specifically, is a good place to start.

As we head closer to spring and the height of the lambing season, we want to continue to raise awareness of the importance of keeping dogs on leads when near livestock. The best thing to do when walking near farmland, is to keep your dog on a lead at all times. There may be signs asking you to do so or advising you that livestock is nearby. We would also encourage you to divert from or restrict your footpath use – especially during lambing season – to ensure the safety of both the livestock and your dog.

If your dog is involved in livestock worrying, there is a chance you will be sued for compensation due to vet bills and other costs that farmers have to take on after the incident. It is also important to note that some farmers are legally entitled to shoot dogs that endanger their livestock.

Our Chief Executive, Tim Bonner recently covered this topic in his editorial 'Are dogs for selfies, or for life?' for our weekly e-newsletter. He described current campaigns to keep dogs on leads as 'addressing only a small part of the problem.' Tim goes on to point out recent that there is evidence to show that '…70% of livestock worrying incidents are carried out by dogs whose owners are not present', which only heightens the importance of giving issues, such as livestock worrying, the attention and awareness that they need.

Taking action to prevent livestock worrying is far greater than simply keeping dogs on leads, but it is certainly the right place to start.

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