Lambs to the slaughter in suspected dog attack

The attacked lambs.
The attacked lambs.

Lambs have been killed after a suspected dog attack at a north Northumberland farm, and owners are being urged to keep their pets under control when they are near to livestock.

A gruesome picture of the three dead sheep, with sickening wounds, was posted onto Facebook yesterday morning, following the incident at Snitter.

It was posted on social media by Rothbury county councillor Steven Bridgett, who wrote: ‘Three dead lambs at Snitter this morning because of dog(s) being allowed to run into fields without proper supervision or being kept on leads at lambing time.

‘The job is already hard enough and the farmer(s) should not and do not have to put up with this. If you cannot control your dog or properly supervise it, on what is private land, the farmer reserves the right to shoot that dog and I completely support that position.’

His post prompted a string of angry comments, with one person saying the image had shocked her to the core.

Another posted: ‘Yet another one. It’s a weekly occurrence now. The message is obviously not getting through to dog owners to put their dogs on a lead near livestock.’

The incident at Snitter comes just weeks after Coastal Views – the newsletter of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – published advice by the National Sheep Association (NSA) and RSPCA to try to prevent such attacks.

The piece, entitled Take care during lambing season, featured a number of guidelines.

These included: Watch for signs warning of livestock and keep your dog on a lead around farm animals and in areas you suspect animals may be grazing, or avoid them completely;

○ If your dog chases sheep, report it to the farmer even if there is no apparent injury as the stress of worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die and pregnant ewes to miscarry;

○ Make sure your dog is wormed regularly and pick up its mess to stop diseases spreading.

Advice to farmers included: Put up signs warning dog owners where livestock is grazing and keep fencing in good repair;

○ Always report an incident to the police.

The NSA website states that it is an offence to allow a dog to worry sheep. Worrying includes attacking or chasing sheep and, in some circumstances, farmers are legally entitled to shoot dogs if they are endangering their sheep.

Sheep worrying is an all too regular occurrence in Northumberland.

Last year, the Gazette reported that two sheep had been killed and another injured after being attacked by a dog near Felton, while in a sperate incident, several sheep died in Hexham after two dogs got into a field of sheep and chased and attacked pregnant ewes.

In 2015, in fields in Angerton and Hartburn, to the west of Morpeth, a ewe and five lambs were killed and more than 20 sheep and lambs were injured.

For more information about the dangers of sheep worrying, and advice to dog owners, visit https://www.nationalsheep.org.uk/dog-owners/sheep-worrying/