Pregnant ewes have been killed in the second of two local dog attacks on sheep.
The latest attacks come in the run up to the spring lambing season, despite repeated pleas by farming organisations for dog walkers to take control of their pets when in the vicinity of livestock.
According to police reports, the first incident occurred at Manor Road near the village of Farnley Tyas in West Yorkshire on Monday, January 26 and involved a German Shepherd. Two ewes carrying three lambs between them were killed on rented farmland owned by Farnley Estates.
The landowners said they will not know for certain that more ewes had not miscarried as a result of the attack until lambing time. Sheep are particularly vulnerable at this time of the year, with many entering the final six weeks of pregnancy. During this period, the unborn lambs put on around two-thirds of their birth weight and any distress can seriously affect the health of both the sheep and their unborn lambs.
Paul Elgar, the estate’s manager, said: “Owners need to be vigilant at all times of year, and should never let their dog off the lead around sheep. At this time of year, however, the consequences of a dog chasing sheep can be particularly catastrophic.
“Pregnancy, especially for sheep carrying more than one lamb, can lower the sheep’s calcium level, and cause them to fit when frightened. This almost always results in miscarriage and, in many cases, also in the death of the sheep.”
Mr Elgar added: “Sheep worrying can be devastating for both the farmer and the dog owner. Our aim is to make sure that we avoid any unnecessary suffering to livestock and family pets by raising awareness of this issue. We’d advise all dog owners to keep to public and permissive footpaths, and bridleways, and to keep their dog under control at all times.”
In the second, separate attack one sheep died and another two were injured after they were attacked by a dog at a smallholding in Southowram, Calderdale.
The three sheep, which were kept in a field at The Ranch in Long Lane, were attacked sometime between 6.30am and 7am last Saturday.
PC Fiona Igo, wildlife officer for West Yorkshire Police, said: “The dog will have been with its owner as there were fresh footprints in the snow in the field. The dog will also have been covered in blood.
“I would urge anyone who knows who owns the dog, or indeed the dog owner themself, to contact me.”
Anyone with information on the dog attack in Southowram should call PC Igo on 07595006728.
The National Sheep Association said sheep worrying by dogs remained a serious problem all year round.
Chief executive, Phil Stocker, said: “Dogs attacking sheep is just the visible tip of the iceberg, as the stress of being chased by a dog even without being bitten can cause abortion and associated health problems.
“As we head into the lambing season it is vitally important that all dog walkers use a lead when crossing farmland. Please think about the unborn and baby lambs and their mothers, but also the farmer who relies on that flock for his livelihood.”
According to surveys carried out by the National Sheep Association in the last three years, the majority of attacks occur in private, enclosed fields with no footpath.
Most attacks are committed by just one dog and on average each attack led to three sheep being injured and four being killed.
Some 58 per cent of farmers who responded to the NSA’s surveys described sheep worrying as a persistent problem and the most frequent associated cost of a single attack was between £200 and £399.
Despite all this, just seven per cent of attacks led to the prosecution of the dog owner.