Lambing Season is approaching – Livestock Worrying – Your responsibilities as a dog owner.

In our rural County we have regular problems with livestock being worried by dogs that are not under proper control.

With lambing season quickly approaching it is important for dog owners to keep in mind the following when out walking:

“Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, if a dog worries sheep on agricultural land, the person in charge of the dog is guilty of an offence. The Act considers sheep worrying to include attacking sheep, chasing them in a way that may cause injury, suffering, abortion or loss of produce or being at large (not on a lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep.”

The Countryside Code produced by Natural England offers the following advice:

When you take your dog into the outdoors, always ensure it does not disturb wildlife, farm animals, horses or other people by keeping it under effective control. This means that you:

– keep your dog on a lead, or keep it in sight at all times, be aware of what it’s doing and be confident it will return to you promptly on command.
– ensure it does not stray off the path or area where you have a right of access.

Special dog rules may apply in particular situations, so always look out for local signs, for example:

– Dogs may be banned from certain areas that people use, or there may be restrictions, byelaws or control orders limiting where they can go.
– The access rights that normally apply to open country and registered common land (known as “Open Access” land) require dogs to be kept on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July, to help protect ground nesting birds, and all year round near farm animals.

It’s always good practice (and a legal requirement on “Open Access” land) to keep your dog on a lead around farm animals and horses, for your own safety and for the welfare of the animals A farmer may shoot a dog which is attacking or chasing farm animals without being liable to compensate the dog’s owner.

However, if cattle or horses chase you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead, don’t risk getting hurt by trying to protect it. Your dog will be much safer if you let it run away from a farm animal in these circumstances and so will you.