Sheep killed and maimed by dogs in North Yorkshire as cost of attacks on livestock tops £2.4m

Farm animals worth an estimated £2.4m were severely injured or killed in attacks by dogs last year, an increase of nearly 30 per cent from 2022, latest figures from NFU Mutual reveal.

The rural insurer urged dog owners to show responsibility and gave its backing to a new parliamentary Bill that improves powers available to police for dealing with attacks on livestock.

Its survey found more people let their dogs off leads in the countryside last year than in 2022, up from 64 to 68 per cent, and that less than half said their pet always comes back when called.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Almost eight per cent admitted their dog chases livestock but 46 per cent believed they were not capable of causing the death or injury of farm animals.

Police and rural insurers have expressed concern over the cost of dog attacks on sheep in Yorkshire and the North East.Police and rural insurers have expressed concern over the cost of dog attacks on sheep in Yorkshire and the North East.
Police and rural insurers have expressed concern over the cost of dog attacks on sheep in Yorkshire and the North East.

More than half felt they did not need to take active measures to prevent their dog from chasing.

In England, the South-West was the worst-hit region by cost, with dog attacks on livestock costing an estimated £359,000, followed by the Midlands (£331,000).

In NFU Mutual’s North-East region, which covers Yorkshire, farm animals worth an estimated £205,000 were severely injured or killed in dog attacks in 2023, up 21 per cent from the previous year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There have already been several police appeals this year for information after attacks on sheep in the region. Hannah Binns, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “The shocking increase in the cost of dog attacks on livestock is incredibly alarming news for farmers in the North-East, especially as the 2024 lambing season gets under way and pregnant ewes and newborn lambs are vulnerable.

“We’ve heard reports from farmers about the complacency and naivety of some dog owners who regularly allow their pets to roam off-lead in the countryside, seemingly unaware of the carnage the dog could cause, then are horrified when an attack happens.

“There have also been incidences where dogs have chased, injured and killed sheep and the owner is nowhere to be seen.

“Farmers are also living in fear of repeat attacks, which cause horrific and needless suffering to livestock and can traumatise all involved dealing with the aftermath.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“All dogs are capable of chasing, attacking and killing farm animals, regardless of breed, size or temperament.”

Ms Binns added: “We’re urging all dog owners to be responsible for their pet and keep them on a lead when walked anywhere near livestock.

“If there is an attack, it is important people accept responsibility and report it, to a local farmer and the police, so that the injured animals are not left suffering in pain.”

North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force said it is seeing increased reports of sheep worrying across the county resulting in the death or serious injury of livestock.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Earlier this month, a farm in Wiggington, near York, reported the killing of two pregnant ewes and another three the week before. All were in a field that has a public footpath along the edge.

Police said in an appeal that it is still unknown if the stress of being chased may have also resulted in the remaining 300 ewes terminating their pregnancies, which are due in early April.

The force shared images of a dead sheep with blood and wounds around its throat but added that other images were too graphic to publish.

PC Jack Donaldson said: “Farmers work day and night around lambing season to protect their livestock, to ensure their lambs are born fit and healthy and to keep them safe from predators. It is a constant worry for farmers when unrestrained dogs have the capability to kill and wound large numbers of animals in a single attack.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Nobody wants to see animals suffer in this way, and there should be no excuses for not having your dog under proper control.”

Just a few days before, police issued an appeal after a sheep had to be put down following a dog attack near Stokesley in which the animal suffered deep puncture wounds and broken/ splintered neck bones.

Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill, police will be given greater powers to respond to livestock worrying incidents more effectively – making it easier for them to collect evidence and, in the most serious cases, seize and detain dogs to reduce the risk of further attacks.

'The Country Post newsletter - bringing you all the latest on rural life and farming across Yorkshire. Sign up today

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.