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Cornwall dogs owners warned over livestock worrying

Cornwall dogs owners warned over livestock worrying

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:02am 24th March 2018.

Dog owners are being urged to be wary when walking in the countryside, after it is revealed hundreds of sheep have been killed in attacks in Cornwall and Devon.

It comes after a group of five rural police forces, including Devon and Cornwall Police, investigated livestock worrying.

Now police are calling for new powers to crack down on attacks.

They want changes in the law, including making dog attacks a recordable crime, giving police power to seize dogs, the creation of a DNA database for offending dogs and harsher sentences for owners.

According to the Livestock Worrying Police Working Group's report, there were 322 recorded cases of livestock worrying in Cornwall and Devon from May 2014 to August 2017.

In total, 305 livestock were killed and 229 were injured and, in 10 of the incidents, the dog was shot.

Almost half of the time (49%), the dog owner wasn't present.

Nationwide, it is estimated around 15,000 sheep were killed by dogs in just one year, putting the cost to the farming sector at around £1.3m.

Simon Hay, of farm insurance broker specialist Lycetts, fears owners are not fully aware of the risk their pet poses to livestock.

He says farmers can be forced out of the industry every year due to the trauma and crippling cost of attacks.

He said: "Unfortunately, even the most docile of dogs can get caught up in an attack on sheep because many of them think it is a game.

"What many dog owners don't realise is that their dog does not have to physically attack a sheep to cause harm.

"A barking or 'playful' dog may seem innocuous to its owner but to a sheep, it is a threat and can spark blind panic among the flock.

"Even if a dog does not make contact with the livestock, the stress from worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die - often by the dozen - and expectant ewes to abort.

"As we are in lambing season, the flock is at its most vulnerable now, and we urge dog owners to take heed and stick to the lead.

"Escaped dogs are also a huge problem so don't let them roam freely and strengthen your boundaries."

sheep worrying

Over the past year, five police forces - Devon and Cornwall, North Yorkshire, Sussex, North Wales and Hertfordshire - took part in an initiative by The National Police Chiefs Council (NSPCC), which aimed to identify the true extent of livestock worrying in the countryside.

Across the five areas, it found 1,928 animals were killed, and 1,614 injured - at an estimated cost of £250,000.

In some cases, the farmer suffered financial losses in excess of £20,000 for a single incident.

The Wildlife and Rural Crime Working Group was formed after rural police forces expressed frustration with not only irresponsible dog ownership, but the limited powers available to them to respond to dog attacks.

But as attacks are not currently treated as a recordable crime, those behind the report say there is little reliable police data on the scale of the problem faced by farmers.

Now the newly-published report is recommending lawmakers make it a legal requirement for dogs to be on a lead in an enclosed area with livestock.

It also called for stricter and harsher sentencing, including crown court appearances for more serious crimes and compensation more reflective of the financial cost to the victim.

Simon said: "Farmers are well aware of how devastating a dog attack can be; it is not only extremely upsetting to find their animals maimed or killed but could be the blow that ends their farming business.

"An attack during lambing season is felt even keener, as future livestock are also lost.

"In the eyes of the law, dogs are viewed as pets, and therefore a 'luxury' but livestock are people's livelihoods.

"So, dog owners should be under no illusion.

"The farmer may have a defence in shooting an attacking dog, under the Animals Act 1971, or the dog could be destroyed by the authorities if the owner is found guilty, of an offence, under the Dogs (protection of Livestock) Act 1953.

"Nobody wants to see that happen to a much-loved family pet.

"If the government pushes ahead with the police recommendations, the owner will also be facing a punishment more reflective of the loss felt by the farmer - which is worth bearing in mind for the future."

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