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Third year of increases in dog attacks on livestock.

WITH the number of reported sheep worrying cases increasing for the third year in a row, the National Sheep Association (NSA) and the British Veterinary Association, have come together to ask dog owners to Take the Lead in enjoying the British countryside responsibly.

Data requested by Farmers Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed that 1,074 dog attacks on livestock were reported to the police in 2013, compared to 739 in 2012 and 691 in 2011.

A survey of sheep farmers carried out by NSA also suggested the police are only informed of 73% of incidents, showing considerable under-reporting of the problem.

Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, said: "Sheep worrying by dogs is a very serious problem for farmers.

"But we do not want to discourage walkers from enjoying the beautiful British countryside, only to do so responsibly and with consideration of the farming businesses that operate there."

Emma Penny, Farmers Guardian Editor, said: "Our new Take the Lead campaign aims to be a positive initiative, encouraging responsible dog ownership and asking owners to Take the Lead when it comes to safeguarding both their dogs and livestock. "An astounding majority - 82% of 1,379 dog owners we surveyed - believe they are in control of their dogs when they are loose. But even the best-trained dog can have instinct take over and that is what some owners don't seem to realise or want to recognise.

"We would like to ask all dog owners to Take the Lead when they are around stock, and help reduce the risk of their pets chasing and even killing livestock. With more than 1,000 reported incidents in the last year, we need to find a way to reduce this devastation."

To help dog walkers enjoy the countryside responsibly, and feel confident that they and their pet are playing a part alongside everyone who works and spends leisure time in rural areas, NSA has created a new area on its website specifically for dog owners. The www.nationalsheepassociation.org.uk/dog-owners area provides top tips, legal advice and best practice for pet owners.

Mr Stocker said: "The NSA survey shows the extent of the issue, which is not one-off cases on farms but a really persistent problem affecting animal welfare and causing stress and financial loss for the farmer.

"While sheep deaths and serious dog bites are a very visible result of worrying, the invisible cost of stress, reduced conception rates and reduced daily liveweight gains are problems that we are trying to help educate dog owners about."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 8, 2014
Words:425
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