Plea to protect livestock as dogs owners cost of South West attacks reaches £228,000

Joseph Bulmer

With peak lambing season underway on farms across the South West, NFU Mutual is calling for dog owners to ensure their pets are under control at all times when livestock are nearby.

NFU Mutual research found almost three quarters of dog owners (73%) now allow their pets to roam off-lead in the countryside – up from (64%) a year ago, despite around half (49%) saying their dog doesn’t always come back when called.

The leading rural insurer estimates that farm animals worth £228,000 were injured or killed by dogs in the South West last year.

Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Behind the figures, these horrific attacks are causing unbearable suffering to farm animals and anxiety for farmers as they deal with the aftermath.

“There’s a new generation of dog owners whose pandemic puppies are coming of age and they don’t know how their dog is going to behave around livestock.

“It’s hard for people to imagine their affectionate, family pet could injure or kill another animal and it’s not only physical attacks that can harm livestock.  Even if a small dog chases sheep and they don’t make contact, they can separate lambs from their mothers or the distress and exhaustion from the chase can cause a pregnant ewe to die or miscarry.”

NFU Mutual statistics reveal that across the UK, farm animals worth an estimated £1.5m were injured and killed by dogs last year. In England the worst hit regions by cost were the South East (£266,000), followed by the Midlands (£242,000) and the South West (£228,000).

1,207 UK dog owners were interviewed by PetBuzz between 23/12/2021 and 06/01/2022. NFU Mutual is calling for all dog owners to: Keep dogs on leads when walking in rural areas where livestock are kept but let go of the lead if chased by cattle; be aware even small dogs can cause distress, injury and death of farm animals and Report attacks by dogs to the police or local farmers.

Don’t let dogs loose unsupervised in gardens near livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs escaping and attacking sheep grazing nearby.