Dog attacks on livestock rise sharply as cost of maulings passes £1m mark

Dog attacks on farm animals have risen sharply, with the cost of savaged livestock rising by 50 per cent in the first quarter of the year, according to new research.

NFU Mutual has said livestock worth around £1.3m were also savaged in 2020, marking a 10 per cent rise compared with 2019, according to estimates based on their claims.

The rural insurer said the rise is due to a surge in people purchasing pets over lockdown and a lack of awareness about how dogs behave around farm animals.

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Rural affairs expert at NFU Mutual, Rebecca Davidson, said the surge in “harrowing reports” of dog attacks could be prevented if people kept their pets on a lead.

NFU Mutual said there has been a surge in 'harrowing reports' of livestock being savaged by dogs

She said: “NFU Mutual’s latest figures confirm the harrowing reports coming in from across the UK of livestock horrifically injured and killed by out-of-control dogs.

“The suffering to animals and the anxiety for farmers could be easily prevented if people kept their dogs on a lead when out in the countryside.

“There’s a lack of awareness amongst dog owners about what their pets are capable of and our research found only 40 per cent accepted their dog could injure or harm livestock.

“Even if a dog doesn’t make physical contact, the distress of the chase can also cause sheep to die, miscarry and separate lambs from their mothers.

“Farm animals are also being chased into danger – drowning in rivers, falling from cliffs and getting their necks trapped in fencing.”

Some 64 per cent of dog owners said they let their dog off the lead in the countryside, but admit their pet does not always come back when called, a survey of 1,237 owners by Petbuzz Market Research suggests.

According to the questionnaire, which was conducted between December 2020 and January this year, 88 per cent of people also said they now walk their dog in the countryside.

Ms Davidson urged dog walkers to keep their dogs on leads in areas where livestock are kept, report dog attacks or sightings of roaming dogs to police or local farmers, and to avoid letting dogs loose in gardens adjoining livestock fields.