Cost of dog attacks on livestock in Wales more than doubles

Farm animals worth an estimated £883,000 were severely injured or killed in Wales in 2023, more than double the 2022 cost.

Complacency among some dog owners alongside an inability to control their pets has seen dog attacks on Welsh livestock cost an estimated £883,000 last year, more than double the 2022 cost (£439,000) latest figures from NFU Mutual reveal.

The shocking statistics comes as NFU Mutual’s latest survey of over 1,100 dog owners found more people were letting their dogs off leads in the countryside last year than in 2022, 68% and 64% respectively.

Worryingly, less than half (49%) said their pet always comes back when called.

Almost eight percent admitted their dog chases livestock but 46% believed their dog was not capable of causing the death or injury of farm animals. More than half (54%) felt they did not need to take active measures to prevent their dog from chasing.

If present at an attack, 57% of dog owners would intervene to stop it, 22% would report it to a local farmer and 11% would call the police.

Owen Suckley, NFU Mutual Wales Manager, said: "The shocking increase in the Welsh cost of dog attacks on livestock is incredibly alarming news for farmers, especially as the 2024 lambing season gets underway and pregnant ewes and newborn lambs are vulnerable."

Remain alert

NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chair Rob Lewis said: "Farmers look after 70% of the UK’s countryside and many public footpaths cross through their land. This means it is vital that we establish measures to ensure that livestock, members of the public and their dogs are all kept safe. We want people to enjoy the countryside and see where their food is produced, but owners must do this responsibly. No matter how in control they think they are, dogs should always be on a lead around livestock, especially as we enter the 2024 lambing season.

"Livestock worrying and dog attacks can cause great emotional and financial stress for farmers who see their animals suffering, and I urge anyone who thinks they’ve seen a livestock worrying incident to report it to the farmer and the police."

Case study: Alun James

Over 80 sheep were killed in two frenzied attacks on Alun James’ remote Llangadog farm in spring 2023. Recalling the incident, Alun said: "The attacks were horrific and left us shaken to the core. As well as causing horrific suffering, it’s left us in a state of shock.

"We’re in a remote area and have not had dog attacks for a long time - the last I can remember was over 40 years ago.

"Our local NFU Mutual Agent sorted out the claims for the lost sheep and vet bills but it’s still one of the worst things to have hit the farm in my lifetime."

The NFU has been working with government and police leaders for many years to strengthen legislation to tackle livestock worrying. The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill is currently making its way through parliament and, if passed, will help improve polices powers to investigate dog attacks on livestock.

Government plans to strengthen the law on livestock worrying were earlier stalled when the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was withdrawn in June last year. More than 20,000 people signed an NFU petition, calling on newly-elected PCCs (Police and Crime Commissioners) to implement changes to legislation to prevent dog attacks on farm animals.

NFU Mutual is urging all dog owners to be responsible to keep pets on a lead when walked anywhere near livestock but let go if chased by cows.

Members: Order your free countryside resources

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