June 14, 2007

New figures reveal that more than 200 incidents of dogs attacking livestock took place in Britain last year.

The RSPCA, National Farmers Union and the National Sheep Association have teamed up to ask dog owners to keep their pets on a lead around sheep and other livestock, to help bring this number down.

Julia Wrathall, head of the RSPCA's farm animal department, said: "Out of control dogs can seriously scare, inflict severe injuries or kill livestock. There are too many incidents of livestock worrying.

"Farm animals such as sheep can find the mere presence of an unfamiliar dog, even a small one, extremely frightening. Sadly, panicking livestock may be maimed or killed by being chased into fences, waterways, foliage or smothering each other while trying to escape."

Pregnant sheep can be so distressed by an unfamiliar dog that it can cause them to miscarry, causing distress to the sheep and financial loss to the farmer. But it's not just the farmers and farm animals that this behaviour can affect.

"Livestock worrying can be dangerous for dogs too," added Julia. "They can be injured or killed by large animals such as cattle, and farmers may legally shoot any dogs that are posing a threat."

Owners have a responsibility to ensure that their dogs are kept on a lead and under control at all times when near farm animals.