Dog owners urged to keep pets on leads near livestock after Northumberland farmer saves sheep from drowning

A teenage farmer had to wade into the North Sea to rescue a sheep spooked by a loose dog.

By Ian Smith
Thursday, 15th July 2021, 11:35 am

Sixteen-year-old Robert Curry, who works on the family farm at Howick Scar, near Craster, sprung into action to drag the sheep to safety.

He revealed: “We got a call from Ian Stafford, who lives nearby and had seen it happen. I went on the quad to the top of the hill and saw her swimming in the sea.

"She was probably about 20-25 yards out by some rocks. She was trying to get out but couldn’t so I went in. She had just about managed to clamber out when I got there but she was clearly very tired after being chased by a dog and then spending that time in the water.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Robert Curry and Ian Stafford haul the sheep off the beach.

Robert and Ian then set about the tricky task of hauling the sheep up the rocks and back into the field.

"It was straight up the hill so that was hard work,” admitted Robert. “It probably took us more than half an hour. Eventually we used a rope on the quad to pull her up. Luckily she seems to be okay.”

It is not the first time it has happened on the farm. Last autumn, a sheep drowned in similar circumstances after being worried by a loose dog.

"It’s a serious problem for us,” said Robert. “We get a lot of dog walkers along the coast so I would ask them to keep their dogs on a lead when there is livestock around. You don’t know what your dog is going to do in those circumstances.”

An NFU spokesman added: “Sadly every year we see the effects of dogs off the lead in amongst flocks of sheep, with attacks costing farmers more than £1.3m a year. In recent months we have seen more walkers with dogs out in the countryside and while enjoying our beautiful farmed landscape with your dog is a great way to relax, unwind and get some much needed fresh air and exercise, we are appealing to everyone to be responsible dog owners and make sure they keep their pets on a lead around farm livestock.”

They added: “It’s hard to imagine the distress associated with finding injured or dead sheep – animals cared for all year round and by many generations of local livestock farmers. Being chased can be serious for sheep – the stress caused can cause abortions in pregnant ewes and even death in some instances. It can also separate lambs from their mothers.

“The Countryside Code provides simple, straightforward advice on how to enjoy the countryside while respecting the fact that farms are working environments and home to the many grazing livestock that help keep the landscape looking as it does. We are urging everyone to make sure they are familiar with it before heading out for their walk.”

Support your Gazette and become a subscriber today. With a digital subscription you get access to the ad-lite version of our website, meaning you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times and get all of the headlines you need with fewer distractions. The Northumberland Gazette has been serving the county since 1854, and your support means we can continue telling your stories for generations to come. Click here to subscribe.