The National Farmers’ Union has raised the severe impacts of what livestock worrying can have on farming businesses to the Efra select committee inquiry on dangerous dogs, after it has emerged that 15,000 sheep are killed each year as a result of dog attacks.
NFU deputy president, Guy Smith told the committee that attacks on livestock can disrupt decades of careful breeding and it is often extremely difficult for a farm to recover from an attack.
Figures from NFU Mutual show that attacks on farm livestock, by out of control dogs, cost UK agriculture £1.6million last year, with claims figures showing a 67 per cent cost increase for dog attacks on livestock from 2015 to 2017.
A lack of evidence means the true extent of dog attacks on livestock is not known, but Sheep Watch UK estimate that dog attacks kill 15,000 sheep in the UK every year.
Commenting on his evidence, Mr Smith said: “Livestock attacks can be extremely distressing and often leave livestock with particularly graphic injuries and mortalities.
“The remote and vulnerable nature of farms only amplifies the emotional impact of an attack.”
He added: “The effects can be long-lasting and it is not just the initial financial loss from the lost stock, but it can also have a serious and lengthy impact on a farming business due to the significant disruption caused.
“This was an important opportunity to raise this issue with MPs and stress that there needs to be consistency across police forces and local authorities in their approach to enforcing dog control legislation.”
The NFU has called for more successful prosecutions, with a recent NPCC report highlighting extremely low successful prosecution rates.
This could be down to there being no formal requirement for police to record livestock attacks.
Mr Smith said: “Currently, there is no formal requirement for police to record livestock attacks, resulting in a lack of accurate figures that reveals the true extent of livestock attacks.
“The NFU would welcome a formal requirement for police forces to record all livestock attacks.”
The NFU has worked closely with the Kennel Club to produce footpath signs which raise awareness of the issue to the public and encourage responsible behaviour with dog walkers.