Animal charity demands action over sheep-worrying
Campaigners want a Government crackdown on dogs terrorising livestock on Dartmoor amid rising incidents of “sheep-worrying”.
The Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society says it is “deeply concerned” to have recorded 76 attacks last year in evidence to a Commons inquiry into tackling irresponsible dog ownership.
The organisation calls for Dartmoor National Park Authority to enforce existing laws more robustly, an end to confusion over attacks on grazed common land, the power to impose dog-destruction orders and on-the-spot fines.
In the written evidence, the group states: “Sheep-worrying is a serious problem on Dartmoor. We are deeply concerned about the apparently rising number of sheep-worrying cases, particularly on common land which is used by the public for recreation and exercising dogs.
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“During 2011, 76 sheep-worrying cases were reported to our Dartmoor Livestock Protection Officer and officially logged – that is more than one a week.
“These cases cause distress to the livestock and to its owners – not only for animal welfare reasons, but also because the stock are important to their livelihoods.”
MPs that sit on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee launched the probe following Government proposals to clamp down on irresponsible owners, which included making it an offence to have dogs out of control even on private property, and compulsory micro-chipping.
Proposals on dogs are also awaited from the Home Office in its reform of the antisocial behaviour regime.
Sheep attacks cost thousands of pounds in lost income to struggling hill farmers.
The National Sheep Association estimates a fatal dog attack on one sheep will set the farmer back as much as £400, but claims dogs usually attack multiple animals at a time.
The Paws on Dartmoor campaign has seen leaflets left at Dartmoor National Park Authority information centres at Princetown, Postbridge and Haytor and information cards handed out by park rangers.
The campaign urges owners to keep dogs on a short lead during the important breeding season and provides advice on canine health issues associated with taking dogs on to Dartmoor.
In separate evidence, the National Farmers’ Union
says livestock-worrying costs farming £1 million annually and nearly 700 cases were reported last year.
It believes attacks are increasing as greater countryside access means farmland is treated as a “large exercise area” for pets. Penalties for livestock-worrying – a £10 fine if convicted – are “woefully inadequate”, it says.