Dog owners across the area are being urged to keep their dogs on a lead when walking through farmland with lambing season beginning. Lambing is a crucial time for farmers across the county.
The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 states that the owner of a dog worrying livestock on agricultural land is guilty of an offence. Sheep worrying includes attacking sheep, chasing them in a way that may cause injury, suffering, abortion or loss of produce or being under close control, on or off a lead, in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep. Farmers do have the right to shoot a dog that is worrying their livestock however this tactic should be reserved as a last resort.
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “Cumbria is a large, mostly rural county and we are extremely lucky to be surrounded by incredible, scenic walks.
“However; most of our rural areas are farmland and we all need to respect the farmers and their livestock that roam the fields.
“Lambing season is an incredibly important time for farmers and can be a stressful time for sheep so it’s vital that we, as a community, work together to reduce any unnecessary risks and potential fall-out when walking our dogs.
“Animal worrying is illegal and farmers have the right to protect their livestock.
“To avoid any danger, keep your dog on a lead when around any farm animals in a field – especially if you can’t be certain that your dog will return to you on first call.
“If you see anyone endangering livestock please report it to the Police on 101 or anonymously to the Crimestoppers rural hotline on 0800 783 0137.
“Working together we can make Cumbria an even safer place for everyone to live, including animals, so please respect the rules.”
Superintendent Carl Patrick, Cumbria Constabulary, said: “Sheep and livestock worrying is a serious issue that can be very distressing for farmers and livestock owners, who depend on these animals for their income.
“It is in a dog’s nature no matter how placid they may be to chase and if sheep are chased, they become distressed and their instinct is to run, often resulting in injury or death.
“Dog owners must remember to keep their dogs under control and on a lead around farm animals and wildlife.
“We would advise all dog owners and walkers to adhere to the Countryside Code which offers advice on walking dogs responsibly near livestock and wildlife.”
Ian Bowness, NFU Cumbria County Chairman, said: “We want people to enjoy the countryside as it’s so important for people’s wellbeing.
“It’s vital that dog owners act responsibly and keep dogs on a lead whenever there is a possibility livestock are nearby.
“In a recent NFU Mutual report alarmingly only 40% of the dog owners surveyed accepted that their pet could cause the injury or death of a farm animal.
“Even if a dog doesn’t make physical contact, the distress and exhaustion of the chase can cause sheep to die or miscarry their lambs.
“It’s important that owners realise that all dog breeds, not just the big, fierce looking ones, are capable of chasing or attacking livestock.”
Members of the public who witness incidents or have information connected to livestock worrying are urged to report this to police on 101. For incidents which are not ongoing, please consider reporting this via the online incident reporting form which is available on the Constabulary’s website. Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on their dedicated rural crime hotline on 0800 783 0137.