30th April 2013
Dog attacks on livestock are on the rise but industry chiefs believe many more are going unreported because of a lack of farmer confidence in police, a Farmers Guardian investigation has revealed.
Statistics obtained by Farmers Guardian under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act show dog attacks on livestock increased from 691 in 2011 to 739 in 2012. Sheep were involved in most cases, with many being attacked, injured or killed.
Farmers Guardian editor Emma Penny said: “We urge all farmers, councils and National Park authorities to download our online poster and drive home the message that dog owners must take more responsibility for their pets. A loose dog can severely injure or kill a sheep in an instant. Don’t let it be your dog.”
FG sent FOI requests to all 51 police forces in the UK and asked them to provide information on dog attacks from January 1 to December 31, 2012. Out of the 28 forces which answered the request, Cumbria had the highest number of incidents with 130.
National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker said there was ‘massive under-reporting’ by farmers and the true figure could be much higher. Others claimed the increasing number of ‘people moving into the countryside’ from towns posed a real problem because they had no concept of how much damage their dogs could do.
Mr Stocker said: “The figures are worrying, but I think we are just scratching the surface. There is very little consistency in police forces throughout the UK in how they record the information, how they respond to calls and how they deal with the incidents afterwards. No one knows what the police are prepared to do so they don’t bother reporting it.”
The worrying trend could not have come at a worse time for farmers who are struggling after a difficult 2012 season and a miserable start to Spring. Mr Stocker added: “This year when there have been so many losses from Schmallenberg, liver fluke, and the weather, on top of feed shortages, farmers are not in the right frame of mind to deal with another added pressure. It also means some ewes are not in the condition they should be in and will be less robust, making them an easier target for dogs.”
Rural insurer NFU Mutual reported the total cost to agriculture at £1m.
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