Plea to dog owners after prize flock savaged

Leigh Wilson and her flock of sheep.
Leigh Wilson and her flock of sheep.

A north Northumberland woman has issued a heartfelt warning to dog owners after her flock of pedigree sheep was terrorised.

Two weeks ago, Leigh Wilson arrived at her smallholding in Newham, south of Belford, to find three sheep dead and another 16 injured after they were attacked by three rottweilers.

Among the flock were pregnant ewes.

One tup and two ewes were killed and a further six sheep had to be put down following the incident.

Her flock of 40 Jacob and Black Welsh Mountain sheep are kept for showing and the Seahouses resident has won prizes in the past.

“I was absolutely gutted,” the 36-year-old said. “I got out of my car and just screamed.

“They are like your pet dog, except they are sheep. I’m not a farmer, I have them because I want them.

“My heart stopped and I didn’t know how I felt at first, it took me three days to stop crying. It was just absolutely heartbreaking.”

She was alerted by her husband Trevor as the attack was taking place.

The dogs’ compound was next to the sheep and with the ground wet and soft at the moment, they may have been able to dig their way in.

The couple aren’t sure how long the dogs had been in with the sheep.

Compensation was paid and the dogs were put down. Leigh felt upset for their owner, but she believes there are wider lessons to be learned.

“It should never have happened and you just think ‘where’s it going to end?’

“I just want people to be aware. It only takes a split-second for something to go wrong.

“People are bringing dogs up (to north Northumberland) and think they can let them run around wherever they want and they just can’t.

“People need to be aware that there are pregnant ewes around at this time of year and they can be really affected by stress as well.”

The attack has had a severe effect on the surviving sheep as well as Leigh’s 11-year-old daughter Lisa.

“It took a week for her to come to the farm because she didn’t want to see,” Leigh said.

“Sheep are a scared species anyway. They always think they are going to be attacked and it doesn’t help when they actually are.”

Unfortunately, sheep attacks are not uncommon and Leigh said that while she had seen it before in farming newspapers, it was nothing on seeing it in real life.

“These dogs have just thought it was play-time. It was horrendous.

“Even thinking about it now, I can feel my heart pounding.

“I hope to see nothing like it ever again. To see it on your own flock is devastating.”

A member of the Jacob Sheep Association, Leigh is hosting an event in September, which has had to be postponed from an earlier date due to the attack on her flock.