With the slow departure of winter, the longer days and warmer temperatures are a sign that spring is coming. For the farming community, this both a joy and a cause for worry, as the arrival of new lambs is tempered by a wariness of the outside world trespassing onto their fields and potentially harming the flock. What sort of risks are involved during the spring?
Sheep, like all animals, need their physical health taken care of and maintained, but their mental health is of equal importance, and can often be upset by the introduction of stressful and often unwanted guests such as dogs. What some people may not be aware of is the fact that farmers are well within their rights to shoot a dog if it poses a threat to the safety of the flock, but it’s important to remember that this is subject to several legislations, and the farmer would need to provide evidence that the animal was either going to kill or pose a threat to the entire flock, although regardless that’s obviously not something anyone wants to happen. It’s often frustrating for a farmer to spend large amounts of money to create a secure and safe environment for their animals, only to have a dog slip in and run havoc among the sheep thanks to rights of way over the countryside.
It is heartbreaking to see the posts starting on social media channels, of fellow farmers photographing the damage done to their stock – and 9/10 the dog is long gone before they are even aware.
Farmers everywhere would like to remind people that their sheep are their livelihood, and their continued success within the farming community can often depend on the raising of sheep to sell. Shooting a dog to protect the flock is the last thing any animal loving farmer wants to do, and there are lead rules for dogs in fields with sheep – please, please keep them on the lead, until you’re away from the sheep. There are lots of public footpaths over fields without sheep, and plenty of places to walk your dogs that don’t mean you come across sheep. You might think your dog is fine around sheep but their nature is to chase and / or kill – you never know when they might just decide to let their basic instincts take over. If we all work together on the issue present during the springtime it would be extremely beneficial, exposing the sheep to as little as stress as possible is great for animal welfare and their mental health, which in turn means they flourish and grow well.