The beginning of warmer weather and budding flowers heralds the start of spring. However in the country it signifies lambing season is now upon us.
Usually kicking-off in early spring, the site of young lambs leaping and gamboling in the surrounding fields is a welcome sight. Yet with these playful arrivals, extra care must be taken by dog owners to ensure the season runs smoothly.
At this time more than ever, it is essential that dogs are kept under close control, and all routes passing through fields with sheep avoided. By allowing them to run free, it could be seen as the illegal act of ‘worrying’ whereby the livestock is chased or harassed by a dog not under control.
Sheep worrying is a great risk as it can cause;
- Abortion in the ewes due to stress
- Mother and young lamb separation during the early stages which, if unable to be reunited, results in the lambs dying of starvation or hypothermia
Sheep worrying can have serious consequences for the owner, as it is their responsibility to ensure that their dog is under control. If caught, the owner can be sued for any damages caused.
Consequences for the dog can be worse. A farmer finding a dog on his land, worrying sheep, is legally allowed to use necessary means to stop or even kill the dog to ensure livestock safety. It is unrealistic to expect a dog, with a natural predatory instinct, to be 100 per cent reliable around any livestock. The smells associated with lambing are also very alluring to animals with a hunter instinct, so even the most obedient dog could go rogue.
Simple tips to prevent your dog causing a problem include:
- When walking, watch for signs warning of livestock.
- Avoid areas you know or suspect sheep may be grazing.
- If a field with sheep is unavoidable, keep as far away from them as possible and ensure dog is on a short leash and under control.
- If your dog does worry the sheep, report it to the relevant farmer as although perhaps injury-free, the stress could result in a miscarriage.
The message is Don’t Be Complacent. Even if your dog is usually calm and obedient, perhaps even accustomed to livestock, it is still your responsibility to ensure there is no room for a mishap. Err on the side of caution, avoid the sheep, and always have dogs on a lead.