OPINION: Keep your dog under control

A gruesome scene all too familiar to Gazette readers.
A gruesome scene all too familiar to Gazette readers.

With lambing season under way, many people will be excited to head out on a spring walk with their dogs.

But this is a cautionary tale – year after year, as far back as I can remember, the Gazette has reported on lambs being savaged to death by dogs on the loose.

It’s an appalling sight.

Livestock worrying is estimated to cost the farming industry at least £1.2million a year. But, as more and more people become dog owners, the risk of attacks on sheep and lambs is increasing.

Many of us think our pets are okay to let off the lead and most, to be fair, are fine in the presence of livestock.

A recent survey by magazine Farmers Guardian found that 82 per cent of owners say their dog is under control when it’s loose but there can never be a 100 per cent guarantee that the animal will not attack for a newly-born lamb when loose.

Farmers Guardian does a lot of work reminding people walking in the countryside that dogs can kill livestock, asking them to keep them on a lead.

Many owners believe that if there is no traffic or other people in the area then there is no reason to tether their pet. But at this time of year, there is every reason.

Just behind that hedge or over that fence could be a field of ewes and lambs that represent the livelihood of the farmer and his or her family.

After speaking to a local farmer, he explained the importance of keeping a dog on a lead in the countryside.

He told me that a dog attacked the tail of one of his best ewe lambs, ripping it clean off.

It then attacked the poor lamb’s head. He took the animal to the vet where he was told it was lucky to be alive.

This is why it is important to keep your pet on the lead.

No matter how small your pooch, it could easily frighten a defenceless lamb.

Even if the dog chases a pregnant ewe, she can easily lose her lambs if startled.

Farmers Guardian produces signs to put on gates and posts to warn of the dangers.

I fully endorse any such measure that helps prevent such gruesome attacks.

Keep your dogs under control in the coming weeks and, hopefully, we won’t be seeing similar images of dead sheep.