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Farmers urge owners to keep dogs on leads after sheep attacked in field near Grantham

Farmers are urging people to keep their dogs on the lead after an attack on sheep in a field near Grantham at the weekend.

Two sheep were attacked by a dog which was off the lead and reportedly jumped a fence into the field in Barkston near the stepping stones which cross the River Witham.

The animals had their hind legs bitten by the dog, said to be a husky, as it ran in among a flock of 120 sheep.

Sheep owned by Louise Elkington were attacked by a dog off a lead. Photo: Louise Elkington (45666634)
Sheep owned by Louise Elkington were attacked by a dog off a lead. Photo: Louise Elkington (45666634)

The owner of the flock, Louise Elkington, said the attack had happened at the worst time of year.

Louise told the Journal: "They start lambing in two weeks. A dog chasing them can cause them to abort. But there is nothing we can do but wait to see what happens. Apparently the dog chased them all for quite a while."

Louise added: "People should keep their dogs on leads around livestock. People think they know their dogs, but every dog can chase and it is the chasing that causes the damage.

"If anyone did see anything and could come forward we would be very grateful for any extra information that might help the police find the dog owner. He was is his late 60s, grey hair, and he had his granddaughter with him who was aged around 12. She had had a black puppy or small dog. They also had a tan coloured terrier.

"Under the Animals Act 1971 a farmer can shoot a dog caught worrying livestock. No farmer wants to do this but people need to know what could happen if they are irresponsible."

The incident happened between 2.30pm and 3pm on Saturday (March 27).

Another farmer, Steve Elnor, spoke to the owner but it is thought he has given false details. Steve said: "As with all cases, people do not realise that their dog is capable of attacking sheep. It is very difficult for the owner to call the dog off as it is enjoying itself and following instinct.

"We need people to be aware of the rest of the Countryside Code, so publicity around keeping to footpaths, not dropping litter etc is really helpful."

Anybody who witnessed the attack is asked to contact police on 101.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) says spring visitors to the countryside are being urged to keep their dogs under control as farmers brace themselves for a wave of attacks on their sheep over Easter.

Insurer NFU Mutual is concerned that the Easter break could see an influx of walkers unfamiliar with the Countryside Code and unaware of how their new dogs will behave around livestock.

According to a survey of dog owners commissioned by NFU Mutual, 88 per cent of people say they now walk their dog in the countryside, while 64 per cent of dog owners say they let their dog run free in the countryside - half admit their pet doesn’t always come back when called.

Livestock worrying cost the Midlands an estimated £221,000 last year, according to NFU Mutual statistics.

Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “These attacks cause immense suffering to animals and are devastating for farmers.

“Dog attacks are easily preventable if owners keep their pets under control and on a lead when livestock may be nearby. Doing so keeps sheep and their lambs safe from harm and stops a country walk turning into carnage.”

Walkers are also being urged to report any incidents of livestock worrying they may witness. The ‘What3Words’ app can be used to pinpoint your exact location, so you can report where you have seen an incident to within a 3m x 3m area. Attacks can leave livestock with painful injuries, so prompt and accurate information could save animals hours of suffering.

Alarmingly, only 18% of those surveyed said they would call the police if they saw a dog chasing or attacking livestock and only 15% would report it to the farmer.

To make dog walking safe, NFU Mutual is issuing the following advice:

  • Always keep dogs on the lead when walking in rural areas where livestock are kept but let go of the lead if chased by cattle
  • Be aware that even small lap dogs can chase, injure and kill farm animals
  • Take special care to keep close control of dogs unused to farm animals
  • Report attacks by dogs and sightings of dogs roaming the countryside to the police or local farmers
  • Don’t let dogs loose and unsupervised in gardens adjoining livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and attack sheep grazing nearby

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