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Campaign to reduce number of dog attacks on livestock

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 12, 2013

PC Keith Evans (West Midlands Police), left, with police puppy Ojem and Stratford-Upon-Avon farmer Peter Lea, right, with one of his newest additions

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A campaign has been launched to tackle the devastating impact of a "hidden menace" on livestock.

The National Farmers' Union Mutual has backed the initiative to raise awareness and alleviate the number of lambs being attacked by domestic dogs.

Farmer Graham Palmer, from Lambs Park, Sheepstor, on Dartmoor, is one of many farmers and landowners who are concerned about dog attacks in the countryside. He has lost hundreds of hours' work and thousands of pounds in damages to dog attacks and sheep worrying over a period of 25 years.

He said: "It has been an absolute nightmare. I once ended up in hospital due to sleep deprivation from stress.

"One of the my lambs was left to die after having its face ripped off by a dog. It managed to survive several days, but eventually had to be put down.

"Owners often don't realise their animals are capable of carrying out such horrendous attacks. But when they get a blood lust, it can cause great distress both to the livestock and to the farmer."

The programme will involve puppies being introduced to farm livestock and horses at an early age, in a bid to reduce their fear and aggression towards livestock they meet in the countryside.

Nicki Whittaker, an equine specialist at NFU Mutual, said: "Most dog owners are very responsible and keep their animal on a lead around horses and livestock. However, some dogs may never have encountered sheep or horses before and may chase or attack them, resulting in death or injury."

Ms Whittaker added: "The countryside is a wonderful environment in which to walk your dog, but it's important to remember that it's a shared space and everyone has to play their part to ensure that it remains a safe and enjoyable place for people to live, work and enjoy their leisure pursuits."

A recent Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report into dog control and welfare advised the police to show more consistency in prosecuting owners of dogs that attack livestock and horses.

In 2011 there were almost 700 cases of sheep worrying in the UK, which NFU Mutual estimates cost the industry around £1 million.

Tim Price, a rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: "Add to this the number of injuries to horses attacked or frightened by dogs and subsequent injuries to riders who have been thrown from their horses and the scale of the problem in the countryside becomes clear."

The campaign comes as the British Horse Society claims the number of horses being attacked by dogs nationally is also growing at an alarming rate. More than 400 incidents on horses have been recorded according to the society's accident website launched in November 2011.

Sheila Hardy, senior executive in the safety department at the British Horse Society, said: "Dog attacks on horses are the fastest-growing category of incidents being reported through our horse accidents website and the most common after road accidents.

"This is a worrying trend and we urgently need to educate both dog and horse owners about the problem.

"The consequences of these incidents can be particularly nasty with serious injuries being caused to both riders and horses. Dogs can also be injured and even killed," she added.

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  • zebrapants  |  April 12 2013, 7:30PM

    Torre Abbey sands was full with the usual pit bulls on a rope, though mainly off a rope and running free, menacing children and families. Accidents waiting to happen everwhere. You need to do a risk assessment before you go on a Torquay beach these days. Don't talk to the owners, don't even look at them.

    |   -4
  • Robwatson  |  April 12 2013, 7:06PM

    What? No word from the voice of torbay AKA Mr Haddock? I don't beleive it. Maybe his shop is doing well enough not to use this paper for a free p.r mention.

    |   -2
  • Sowester  |  April 12 2013, 2:04PM

    My spell checker won't pass "agressive" and "jewelry". What's wrong with it?

    |   -1
  • trogg  |  April 12 2013, 12:43PM

    zebrapants, do you seriously belive what you have written ?? next time you go to the moors,if you ever do, have a look at ALL the breeds of dogs running loose," cute and cuddly labs,spaniels" etc, then you may be able to offer an opinion

    |   1
  • spindles12  |  April 12 2013, 11:46AM

    Sorry zebrapants, the dog mess ISN,T good for the fields. Here's a quote from the NFU:- "There has been an increase in cases of a disease, neospora, which can be spread by dogs eating infected material from cattle, such as placentas from newly-calved cows. It is then spread through the dog's faeces. The parasite survives for several months and can contaminate the pasture and water supplies. Once cattle or sheep have the parasite, they are infected for life. It causes livestock to miscarry or pass it on to any surviving offspring. Another parasite, sarcocystosis, is spread the same way and can cause illness and death in livestock. Research suggests about one in five aborted cattle foetuses are infected with the neospora parasite, with an increase in the problem in recent years. Sarcocystosis has similarly been killing an increasing number of animals". Yes, not all dogs will eat cattle placenta but you know what dogs are like, they'll eat anything so if they don't pick up bugs from that they'll pick it up from something else. Having said that, I do wonder WHERE the parasite comes from in the first place, was it inside the cow to begin with, in which case, couldn't the farmer do something to prevent it? It still doesn't get over the fact that it's not nice to see dog mess when you're out on a countryside walk. There's also the way it could harm wildlife if they come into contact with it because of the parasites that dog mess contains.

    |   5
  • zebrapants  |  April 12 2013, 11:14AM

    At least the mess thesr dogs leave behind is good for the fields, it does the pavements no good at all.

    |   -8
  • zebrapants  |  April 12 2013, 10:22AM

    Looks like rural farmers have the same problem that urban parents have. How to get the authorities to wake up to the menace of large agressive bull terriers being trained as agressive burglar alarms and being used as agressive jewelry from being let loose into society with no concern for anyone.