Livestock Worrying

Away from home and alone, your dog may be at risk

What is livestock worrying?

Livestock worrying under British and Welsh law covers attacking or chasing livestock. Legally a dog must be on a lead or otherwise under close control in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep. Livestock worrying has a substantial financial and emotional impact on farmers.

Majority of livestock attacks are caused by loose dogs

Police statistics show around 7 in 10 livestock worrying incidents are caused by unaccompanied dogs, i.e. strays and owners allowing dogs to roam[1]. For North Wales this rises to 89%.

Despite numbers of those visiting the countryside with dogs peaking in the summer months, and sheep numbers being around 70% higher in summer than winter[2], there appears to be no associated rise in attacks. Police statistics show no significant difference in the number of incidents reported between the six months of Mar-Aug and of those between Sep-Feb.

Public education has been largely misdirected

Overwhelmingly public messaging and media coverage of livestock worrying has focussed on keeping dogs on a lead around livestock. A recent NFU Mutual survey found that this message is succeeding with 95% of dog walkers putting their dogs on a lead when seeing signs that livestock are present in a field. It is imperative that the on lead message is not taken too far. Whilst, dogs should be kept on leads around livestock, they must also be able to be exercised off lead. Without sufficient off lead exercise, dogs will likely be bored, have excess energy, and be of greater risk of straying.

However, despite it being the largest cause of livestock worrying, there has been very little public information to tackle the impact of dogs escaping from home and/or being allowed to roam. This is also reflected in the recent NFU Mutual research, which reported that 52% are allowing their pets to go out in the garden unaccompanied when they're not at home, up from 43% last year[3].

How to reduce livestock attacks

All stakeholders need to improve their public messaging on unaccompanied dogs to increase awareness of risks posed by escaping and roaming dogs. It is essential that this includes how the media reports worrying incidents. Local authorities must make greater use of Acceptable Behaviour Contracts and Community Protection Notices to the risk of reoccurrence of dogs escaping.

With regard to people out walking their dogs, it clear from both the evidence gathered by the NFU Mutual and our experience, that dog owners want to avoid conflict. Landowners and farmers erecting clear, up-to-date signs about the presence of a livestock in fields will help to reduce worrying incidents and reduce human fatalities arising from cattle. Indicating alternative livestock free walking routes has also proven to be effective[4].

[1] https://www.npcc.police.uk/Publication/livestock%20worrying.pdf

[2] http://apha.defra.gov.uk/documents/surveillance/diseases/lddg-pop-report-sheep1117.pdf

[3] NFU Mutual / Petbuzz Market Research January 2019

[4] APGAW Tackling livestock worrying and encouraging responsible dog ownership November 2017

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