Sheep farmers who lost 11 animals following a gruesome dog worrying attack fears their lambing season will be ruined.
Seven lambs were killed outright and a further four had to be put down after the attack at Caroline and Jim Chapman’s livestock farm in Saltfleetby, near Louth Lincolnshire.
A further 15 sheep needed veterinary treatment for chewed ears and wounds. Some of the sheep killed were in-lamb ewes.
Lincolnshire Police described the attack on 13 February as “the worst case of sheep worrying in the county for some time”.
Mr and Mrs Chapman said witnessing the carnage the attack left behind had a traumatic effect on them and their two teenage children, Ben, 18, and Sam, 16, who helped care for sheep writhing in agony.
The Chapmans caught one of the two loose Alsatian dogs responsible for the attack and located their owner through contact details on its collar.
Both dogs said to be responsible for the attack have since been rehoused and handed to a security firm.
The NFU has estimated the costs of the attack, including a £1,200 veterinary bill, at £5,400. But that figure could rise if the flock, which consists mostly of Beltex-cross sheep, experiences an abortion storm this lambing season.
Mrs Chapman said the dog owner has apologised to her for the attack and explained that the dogs somehow escaped from her garden, which was fenced off, and into the farmer’s field.
It is believed the owner’s home insurance company has agreed to pay the full costs.
“We are due to start lambing on 22 March and it’s a very anxious time for us all,” said Mrs Chapman.
“Only three of the 29 sheep in that field had not been marked at all. They were all in-lamb.
“The damage the dogs did was unbelievable. It must have been a frenzied attack. It’s not just the financial loss, but the emotional suffering it has caused us has been tough to handle.
“When you and your teenage children are bringing in injured sheep out of a dyke at 10.30pm, it’s a pretty awful scenario.”
The case has been handed over to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether to press charges against the owner, which could result in a fine up to £1,000 and an order for the destruction of the dogs.
Livestock worrying by dogs is estimated to cost the industry at least £1.2m a year. The NFU’s Love Your Countryside campaign is highlighting the issue.
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “Farms are working environments and farmers always think very carefully about where they keep their livestock at this time of the year. So if you’re out walking your dog, please be sympathetic, especially to those animals rearing their young, and give them space.
“When walking with dogs in fields with livestock, the advice is to keep your dog close, under effective control, and on a short lead. If you feel threatened, release your dog so you can both get to safety separately.
“Remember that our animals are our livelihood and we can’t risk having them distressed, hurt or killed by dogs with irresponsible owners. So, be responsible by following a few simple dos and don’ts and back British farming.”
Anyone who witnesses sheep being chased or attacked should call 101 immediately.