North Wales farmers raise livestock worrying with local MP

The Farmers’ Union of Wales Caernarfon Branch has raised the issue of livestock worrying and dog attacks with Aberconwy MP Robin Millar following an increase of incidents in recent weeks. Farmers who keep sheep on the Carneddau range in Caernarfonshire have lost close to 20 sheep in recent weeks due to attacks by dogs, the MP heard.

Henry Williams of Gwern Gof Isaf, Capel Curig has lost sheep due to dog attacks, as has Elfed Jackson from Braich Tŷ Du, Nant Ffrancon near Bethesda. 

Mr Jackson noted: “People just don’t realise the stress and heartache such incidents causes us. And even worse is the attitude of many dog owners who are in denial that their dog would do such a thing. I’ve returned a couple of dogs to their owners recently and just about managed to get a “sorry” from them. They need to understand the full implications of their dog not being under control when walking on the open mountains like we have here.”

Henry Williams added: “It breaks our hearts to have to see the result of an attack by dogs. It’s bad enough when one or two have suffered, but when it gets into double figures it’s even worse. Added to that stress is then the need to carry the carcasses down from the mountain by hand, which is no easy task when you have the local authority insisting that they are cleared immediately. I’m not sure if they realise what they are actually asking us to do.”

Speaking after the meeting, FUW Caernarfon County Executive Officer Gwynedd Watkin said: “Despite much awareness raising by the Union, other industry bodies and the police, we keep seeing dogs attacking livestock. Not only do the attacks cause suffering or death for the animals, but they also lead to stress and heartache to the owners of the sheep as well as financial implication which can be severe.

“We know that there are 3 types of livestock attack - the escapee, dog exercising off the lead and dogs not under close control - but 99% of the time it’s irresponsible dog owners who are at fault, not the dog. 

“With this in mind and the likelihood of a further increase in visitor numbers enjoying our countryside this summer we urge the public to respect our countryside and our livestock. The message is simple - keep your dog on a lead.”

Robin Millar stated “Letting animals worry and attack livestock is a crime with dreadful results. Dog owners have to realise their responsibilities and I will be pushing for the law to be reviewed to give police the powers they need to deal with this issue in a more practical way.”

New measures to tackle livestock worrying were set out in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, introduced to Parliament in June, which include improved powers to help police to respond to incidents which can result in significant injury, suffering and death to farm animals, and cause distress and financial costs for farmers. 

FUW Policy Communications Officer Gareth Parry added: “We have recently welcomed the increase in power for the police to deal with such incidents. Yet clearly the message has not reached everyone. Farmers across Wales continue to be subjected to livestock worrying and avoidable losses, such as those that occur when a dog chases or attacks livestock. 

“It remains a significant source of frustration for the livestock sector in Wales and we call on the Welsh Government to ensure that they see through plans to establish an all-Wales Rural and Wildlife Crime Coordinator role to enable all forms of rural and wildlife crime to be tackled across Wales’ police forces.”