Concerns have been raised that a “pandemic generation’ of poorly-trained dogs” could cause a lot of damage in the countryside this Easter.
With new-born lambs and pregnant ewes at peak vulnerability now, the National Farmers Union Mutual is asking people to take extra care in making sure their dogs are under control.
Research conducted by the group shows 73% of dog owners (up from 64% last year) now allow their pets to roam off-lead in the countryside.
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This is despite the fact that 49% admitting their dog won’t always come back when called.
Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, explained: “With Easter falling late this year, most lambs on Scotland’s farms have been born and are highly vulnerable to dog attacks – so we’re asking owners to keep their pets on the lead whenever livestock could be nearby.
“With many people planning an Easter trip to the countryside with dogs which aren’t used to being around sheep, we’re worried there could be a surge in attacks.
“As the weather improves for the Bank Holiday, we understand people want to make the most of the countryside, however it’s crucial that this is done responsibly.
"While harmless at home, gentle family pets can quickly turn to their natural instincts out in the fields, leaving a trail of horrific injuries to sheep and new-born lambs.
“Owners need to be aware that it’s not just large dogs that attack sheep - even small dogs can cause deaths by chasing sheep round fields until they die from stress, or separate new-born lambs from their mothers.”
Advice offered to dog walkers includes:
Always keep your dog on a lead when walking in rural areas, especially in areas where there is livestock.
If the dog is chased by cattle, the lead can be released.
Even small dogs can cause a lot of distress to animal, as well as their injury and death.
If you see any dog attacks, report it to the police or to local farmers, and don’t let dogs unsupervised in gardens that are near livestock fields.
If the dog escapes the garden, they may attack nearby grazing sheep and lambs.