RURAL police teams have issued a warning over livestock worrying after receiving 80 reports of incidents so far this year.
Dyfed-Powys Police officers have joined forces with rural unions NFU Cymru and FUW to remind dog owners just how important it is to keep their pets on a lead.
Powys officer PC Charlie Jones said: “Livestock worrying is an increasing concern. Already this year, there have been 80 reported incidents to Dyfed-Powys Police, 30 of which have taken place in Powys. However, these figures do not include the many attacks that have gone unreported.
“We regularly receive calls from farmers, landowners, and members of the public reporting farm animals being chased by dogs. In some of the most serious of cases livestock have been attacked and severely injured or even killed by dogs.
“We take all these incidents very seriously and investigate each report thoroughly. If there is sufficient evidence, action can be taken against the dog owner.”
While the majority of worrying cases see sheep being harmed or disturbed, the law also applies to cattle, goats, swine, horses, and poultry, and involves a dog attacking or chasing these animals in a way that can reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering.
PC Jones added: “We appreciate that dog owners enjoy walking around our beautiful countryside, but it is crucial that care is taken as they will inevitably encounter grazing livestock.
“It is in a dog’s natural instinct to chase, even if they are usually obedient. We have dealt with all breeds and sizes of dogs in connection with worrying, from terriers to huskies – all dogs are capable.
“We understand that the reality of livestock attacks can have devastating effects for both the farmer and the dog owner. In Powys, our aim is to educate and encourage support from all sectors of our community to prevent these incidents from occurring in the first instance.”
The Powys Rural Crime Team and senior management team are working with NFU Cymru and FUW in a bid to reduce the number of livestock attacks in the division.
FUW Senior Policy Officer Dr. Hazel Wright said: “Avoidable losses, such as those that occur when dogs chase or attack livestock represent a serious and significant threat to family farm livelihoods.
“Alongside the significant welfare issues that occur, the financial consequences can be significant and include abortions, loss of breeding stock, loss of future earnings, decreased production, veterinary bills, and the cost of carcass disposal. These additional costs have serious financial implications for the future solvency of the farm business.
“In order to protect livestock health, it is also essential that dog walkers pick up after their dog. Dog fouling can spread diseases that cause health and welfare problems such as repeat abortions and, as with dog attacks, this represents a preventable welfare issue.
“We continue to urge members of the public to use the countryside responsibly and this includes safely keeping dogs on a lead near livestock and picking up after your dog.”
NFU Cymru added that with a large number of public paths crossing farmland, dog walkers should take extreme care.
“Welsh farmers look after over 80 per cent of the land area of Wales and many public footpaths go through farmed land,” a spokesman said.
“We understand that given the current coronavirus pandemic, more people want to exercise in rural areas, however there are far too many instances of vulnerable stock suffering at the hands of dogs that aren’t being controlled correctly by their owners.
“Even when dogs are chasing sheep, which may not look like they are causing harm, this can cause stress to the sheep. Young lambs stand relatively little chance when subjected to a brutal attack from a dog left free to rampage off of the lead.
“Our advice is that if you have a dog with you, keep it close by your side and under control. Where there are cows and sheep, put it on a short lead.
“NFU Cymru has gatepost signs available in English and Welsh for farmers who have public rights of way running through their land to remind dog walkers of best practise.
“We would urge farmers to report all incidents to the police to ensure we get an accurate record of the problem across Wales.”
Advice to dog owners:
- Know where your dog is at all times.
- Ensure your property is secure to prevent your dog’s escape.
- Don’t allow your dog to enter livestock grazing land alone.
- Stick to public areas, right of ways and designated footpaths.
- Ensure your dog is kept under close control at all times.
- Ensure a suitable person is in charge of your dog.
- Report any livestock worrying incidents involving your dog to police immediately.
- It is advisable to keep your dog on a lead when in the presence of livestock
(however, don’t hang on to your dog if you are threatened by cattle – let your dog go)
Advice to farmers / land and livestock owners:
- Improve signs on gateways alerting dog walkers to the presence of livestock in the fields.
- Report all incidents to police as soon as practicable.
- Take photographs of the injuries to the livestock
- Take photographs of the dog(s) involved if seen on your land.
- If you are able, safely secure the dog until the police arrive.
For more advice, contact your local Rural Crime Team officers by calling 101 or emailing RuralCrimeTeam@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk
The teams can be followed on Twitter @DPRuralPolicing