MORE THAN two thirds of the UK’s sheep farmers have reported an increase in sheep worrying attacks by dogs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A recent survey assessing the incidence and impact of sheep attacks by dogs across the UK by the National Sheep Association found that 67% of respondents have witnessed an increase in attacks in the past year.

On average, respondents experienced seven cases of sheep worrying during the past year, resulting in five sheep injured and two sheep killed per attack. Estimated financial losses of up to £50,000 were recorded, with an average across all respondents of £1570. However, NSA found that most respondents received no or very little compensation.

These attacks have not only threatened animal welfare and placed a financial burden on farmers but have added significant strain to the mental wellbeing of the country's sheep farmers. More than half of respondents reported feelings of anxiety, anger, upset, stress and frustration as a result of dog attacks on their flocks.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “NSA’s own survey results combined with recently reported figures from industry partners both show a concerning increase in the number of sheep worrying by dogs cases during the past year. There is much evidence suggesting this is a result of the various periods of national lockdown that have been experienced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic with dog ownership increasing and the general public enjoying more time in the countryside as one of the few outdoor pursuits still able to be enjoyed.

“The issue is receiving more attention from the media but there is still much work to do to continue the education of the dog owning public to ensure the future safety and welfare of both farmer’s sheep flocks and pet owner’s much loved dogs and this needs to come from strengthened countryside use guidelines and stricter legislation.”

The survey found that 80% of respondents agreed that the rest of the UK should follow the recent change in Scottish law that will include tougher penalties for offenders including fines of up to £40,000 and/ or 12 months imprisonment.

The survey results were announced to coincide with the NSA launching its two week long 2021 campaign #LeadOn, which aims to increase awareness of the issue amongst the general dog owning public.

The sheep farming charity hopes the 'alarming' survey results will help demonstrate the extent of the issue to the general public. It is also working hard to raise understanding that any breed and temperament of dog can be a threat to sheep and therefore the only way to tackle the issue is to ensure dogs are kept on a lead whenever sheep could be nearby, even if they are out of sight.

Mr Stocker continued: “NSA is committed to ensuring the general public develops a better understanding of the stress and suffering that any dog, no matter its breed, can cause to sheep by barking, chasing and attacking them. It is a serious animal welfare issue that puts both sheep and much loved pets at risk”

A full summary of NSA’s survey results can be found on the NSA website at