‘A family pet can kill’ - Midlothian farmer’s appeal to dog owners after pregnant sheep dies following savage attack
A Midlothian farmer is appealing to dog owners to keep their pets under control after one of her pregnant sheep and its lambs died following an attack.
Lynne Fairlie found the ewe’s rear end covered in blood at around 7.30am on Monday at Kirkettle Farm, near Roslin, and suspects the incident may have happened the night before.
It is thought a dog found its way through a fence bordering their 250-acre farm from a path on the old Penicuik to Dalkeith railway line, which she says has become increasingly popular with dog walkers during the pandemic.
Mrs Fairlie told the Edinburgh Evening News: “Their dog must have been covered in blood.
“She (the ewe) had bite marks and all of her bowels were hanging out. She had likely been suffering in pain all night.
“Our house sits on the farm and, obviously, if dogs get in the field we can sometimes see it but we never noticed anything, so it maybe happened later on, on Sunday.”
Mrs Fairlie said the injured ewe, which was at high risk of infection, had to be euthanized by a vet and that the two lambs she was carrying were lost. Her ten-year-old daughter, Emma, helped her mother catch the injured animal and get it onto a sheep trailer on Monday morning.
The farmer has about 100 ewes in the field and she had to check them over on Monday. Dogs chasing sheep can cause worrying and the aborting of lambs, something that could potentially still happen a few days after an incident.
Lambing season is due to begin at the start of April.
Mrs Fairlie said: “It would be nice to catch the person because they are responsible for the death of a sheep, and to get compensation, but for me personally I would just like people to report if their dog does chase a sheep and let the farmer know, and we could check them, or if not then phone the police because they can call the farmer and inform them.
“If they had phoned on Sunday night and said ‘my dog has come out a field covered in blood,’ I could maybe have gone and checked and maybe she would not have suffered.
“Some people just don’t realise or don’t care. A family pet can kill and I think some people just don’t realise that.”
Mrs Fairlie said two weeks ago she also spoke to a dog owner about having up to ten dogs running loose close to her farm boundary - but she says the man rudely dismissed her concerns.
She also said a couple of riders on horses in their livery yard have been chased by dogs previously.
Mrs Fairlie said the fence bordering the old railway line, which she suspects the dog managed to get through, is the responsibility of Midlothian Council and that she has raised concerns with them previously about making it more stock-proof or putting up warning signs.
A Midlothian Council spokesman said: “We built a new fence bordering the farm and along part of the Penicuik to Dalkeith walkway around six years ago. Staff members who manage the walkway have not been made aware of any fencing issues since then but we’ll ask them to have a look at the fence.
"If the farmer would like to get in touch with us directly, we’d be happy to discuss this further. We’re obviously very concerned to hear about what happened on this farm. Our Land and Countryside team work with Police Scotland and rural bodies to raise awareness around sheep worrying and other wildlife crime and we’ll continue to do so. ”
Pentland Hills sheep attacks
Local police appealed last summer to the public to keep dogs on leads or under close control and avoid fields with livestock, following a rise in attacks on Pentland Hills sheep. They have also asked people to contact them straight away if they witness an attack.
Police highlight that it is every dog’s instinct to chase and they do not understand the impact of this - but their owners do. As well as the distress and harm caused to the animals, these incidents have both a financial and emotional impact on the farmer which is avoidable.
As well as the distress caused by the ewe’s suffering, it will cost up to £150 for Mrs Fairlie to replace her and up to £100 each for the lost lambs.
Livestock can also be moved around, so it is important not to be complacent with routes previously travelled in the countryside.
If a dog is found to have attacked livestock, the owner may face criminal action. Farmers may also take direct action at the time, including shooting the dog to protect their stock.
In December, Pentland Hills Regional Park also made a public plea on social media following reports of several attacks on sheep by dogs off-lead.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 9.40am on Monday, March 8, we received a report of sheep worrying at a farm near Roslin in Midlothian. Enquiries into the incident are ongoing.”