What to do if your sheep are worried by dogs
Once you’ve checked your fencing, thought carefully about which land to graze at different times of year and put up hardwearing signs asking dog owners to keep their pets on leads, you can’t do much more to prevent sheep worrying happening. But what should you do if your sheep are worried?
- Stay safe: It can be very difficult to stop a dog which is chasing your sheep and dogs have been known to turn on people who get too close while they are attacking, so it is important to be careful. Dog trainer Keith Fallon suggests that throwing a toy or other distraction for the dog can draw its attention away from the sheep, so it may be worth trying this tactic to stop a dog worrying your sheep without getting too close.
- Stay legal: Sometimes it is necessary to shoot a dog that is attacking your flock, but the law around this is complex and shooting should always be the last resort – see below for more information.
- Collect evidence: A lot of mobile phones are capable of taking photographs and/or video so, if possible, video the attack or record it through photographs. This prevents dog owners denying that their dog attacked your flock and means they are more likely to listen to you if you talk to them about it. Video or photographic evidence will also be very useful if the matter ends up in court. There is also a chance that it will be possible to identify a dog owner from photos or video if you are unable to find out whose dog it is at the time.
- Document the aftermath of the attack: If you intend to press charges (or agree a damages payment with the dog owner after the full costs of the attack are known), it is a good idea to document the aftermath of the attack. Take photographs of injuries to sheep. If ewes prolapse or abort get photographic evidence of this too. It’s often too expensive to call the vet out to bear witness to every abortion, but it might be worth calling your vet to notify them of each one.
- Contact the police: You should call the police if your sheep are worried, even if you are not sure what sort of response you will get. NSA’s 2014 dog worrying survey saw the response of the police rated as everything from ‘no response’ to ‘very helpful’ depending on where in the country the farm is, so it can be worthwhile to contact them. It is important to report incidents of sheep worrying to the police, as the higher the official number of instances the more seriously the issue will be taken. The NSA survey found that the police were called in only 73% of cases. This means that sheep worrying is a much bigger problem than is officially recorded. A simple talking to from a police officer holds some weight and may persuade the dog owner to take the matter seriously and keep control of their dog in future. Police can also initiate criminal proceedings (see above) and if you struggle to get your local police to take the issue seriously, it may be that they are unaware of the legalities of sheep worrying detailed at the top of this page.
- Contact the dog warden (if your area has one): Some farmers have found involving the local dog warden when their sheep are attacked very helpful. The dog warden may make more of an impression on a dog owner than you will, even if they do not take any action beyond speaking to the dog owner.