Recent reports of dog attacks on livestock during the Covid-19 pandemic have prompted the Farmers’ Union of Wales to urge dog walkers to keep dogs on a lead when exercising in the countryside.
FUW Animal Health and Welfare Committee Chairman, Ian Lloyd, said: “We are reminding those taking respite in the countryside to also remember our farmers who are key workers producing our food at this very difficult time.
“Many family farms in Wales have been hit hard by the closure of restaurants, cafes and other service outlets during the current pandemic. Avoidable losses, such as those that happen when a dog chases or attacks livestock, are unnecessary, bad for both dog and livestock welfare and add to the current financial stress being experienced by farming businesses at this time.”
The FUW has repeatedly called for legislative changes that will provide police forces with more powers to obtain evidence for prosecution, seize dogs, ban offenders from keeping dogs and have dangerous dogs destroyed.
The Union continues to stress the importance of toughening the legislation relating to dog attacks on livestock in order to help reduce the severe welfare and financial consequences that occur when sheep are stressed, injured, mutilated or killed by dogs.
“There is growing frustration and anger amongst our membership that very little can be done to protect the livestock sector from dog attacks. Prior to the pandemic, the number of reported dog attacks on livestock had shown some signs of improving and, whilst many dog attacks happen by unaccompanied dogs that have strayed from the home environment, our messages about keeping dogs on a lead near livestock have become even more relevant during this pandemic as people seek to get outdoors,” said Mr Lloyd.
Business losses include loss of stock, production decreases due to stress, abortions and the loss of future earnings from stock. These costs can be significant and are coupled with insurance costs, veterinary bills and carcase disposal.
Estimates suggest that livestock worrying could cost the sheep sector around 1.3 million pounds per year and this is a substantial amount of money for a sector which has been badly hit by the closure of the service sector during the current pandemic.
“The countryside is a place to be enjoyed and most members of the public are able to use the countryside without incident. However, farmers must be able to protect their animals and safeguard their businesses,” added Mr Lloyd.
The FUW has produced gate-post signs reminding members of the public to consider their use of footpaths during the Covid-19 outbreak and reminding dog walkers to keep dogs on a lead unless being chased by cattle. FUW members can obtain these signs free of charge via their county office, or they can be downloaded here: