More Yorkshire sheep attacks shows dog owners' attitudes still need to change

HORRIFIC attacks on sheep across Yorkshire show some dog owners are still not grasping just how important it is to keep their pets on leads around livestock.
Dog walkers can avoid needless sheep deaths and aborted pregnancies by keeping their pet on a lead, the NFU's Lucinda Douglas said.Dog walkers can avoid needless sheep deaths and aborted pregnancies by keeping their pet on a lead, the NFU's Lucinda Douglas said.
Dog walkers can avoid needless sheep deaths and aborted pregnancies by keeping their pet on a lead, the NFU's Lucinda Douglas said.

Three year-old lambs had their faces ripped off in a dog attack on Tuesday on a farm in Millington, East Yorkshire, just weeks after another sheep needed its face and throat stitched up to save its life following a similar attack in Settle, North Yorkshire.

Farming groups have repeatedly warned of the affects of sheep worrying but attacks on livestock are still happening. With traditional lambing season now underway, the National Sheep Association and the RSPCA have come together to renew the appeal to dog owners to act responsibly.

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Phil Stocker, the NSA’s chief executive, said: “The risk of heavily pregnant ewes aborting is extremely high after suffering the stress of been chased by dogs, not to mention the risk of young lambs becoming separated from their mother at a critical early bonding stage. Lambs will die from starvation or hypothermia when they become separated from their mother and fail to find her again.”

The National Farmers’ Union, which highlighted the attack in Millington, is also raising the issue.

NFU county adviser, Lucinda Douglas said: “Livestock worrying is completely unnecessary and is totally preventable. Many owners do act responsibly and control their dogs, however, when they don’t the consequences can be awful.”

Following the East Yorkshire attack, the three lambs had to be euthanised due to the severity of their injuries. Farmer, Martin Nesom, who discovered the scene, said he and his family had never witnessed anything like it before.

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He said: “This attack has left us shell-shocked – it is worrying to think a dog or dogs capable of such an attack are at large in our community. If a dog can do this to sheep, I hate to think what it might do to a child. We are all the more concerned because we don’t know the dog responsible and we currently have 220 ewes all heavily pregnant with this year’s lambs.”

Last month, Settle farmer Janet Dunning suffered a dog attack on one of her sheep which also had its face torn off. It took three weeks to nurse the animal back to health and while the dog owner eventually paid the vet bill, he had to be traced by police after giving false identity details at the scene.

Ms Dunning said: “There are signs up asking owners to keep dogs on leads but people ignore them.”

Dog owners must not be complacent, said RSPCA inspector Tony Woodley. “No dog owner sets out on a walk to hurt sheep but sadly that is what can happen if the dog is allowed to run loose around livestock. Many dogs, if given the opportunity, will chase or show interest in livestock so even if your pet is normally calm, gentle, obedient and docile, don’t be complacent. Dog owners should also remember that they could be prosecuted and their dog could be shot dead if they are caught worrying sheep.”

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The NFU’s Ms Douglas added: “We must work to help people understand the damage that can be done as sadly, with more and more attacks happening, the message doesn’t seem to be getting through with some dog owners.”


The message from farming and animal groups is simple: keep dogs on leads around farm animals.

The National Sheep Association asks dog walkers to watch for signs warning of livestock and to keep dogs on leads both around farm animals and in areas where they suspect animals may be grazing, or to avoid such routes completely.

If a dog chases sheep, owners are urged to report it to the farmer, even if there is no apparent injury as the stress of worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die and pregnant ewes to miscarry their lambs.

Owners should also ensure their dog is wormed regularly and should pick up its mess to stop the spread of diseases to livestock.