A dog walker walks his dog on a lead in a field with sheep© FLPA/John Eveson/Rex/Shutterstock

The devastating impact of sheep worrying is being highlighted in a campaign to raise public awareness of the problem.

The Sheep-Wise campaign warns the public about the consequences of failing to control their dogs in the countryside.

It was launched by the National Sheep Association (NSA) of Scotland and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) ahead of the Easter weekend when thousands of people and dogs ventured into the countryside. This also coincides with the busy spring lambing period.

See also: Police seek tougher penalties for sheep worrying

Scotland’s rural organisations are uniting behind the campaign, which also has the support of the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), Police Scotland, the British Veterinary Association (BVA), NFU Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates and Scottish Natural Heritage.

The initiative includes a film aimed at highlighting the devastation for farmers and dog owners caused by sheep worrying.

The film features powerful, first-hand accounts of sheep worrying from Aberdeenshire farmer John Fyall, also chairman of NSA Scotland, vet David McLaren, of Kirkton Veterinary Centre, Stonehaven and Gill MacGregor, SSPCA senior inspector.

The two-minute clip also expresses the anguish dog owners face, along with potential criminal prosecution, if they fail to control their pets properly in the countryside.

Kathy Peebles, NSA Scotland vice-chairman, said: “For farmers, as well as lost income, it is heart-breaking to witness horrendous injuries in the sheep they work hard to look after. 

“For pregnant ewes, the result of being hounded by dogs can be miscarriage of unborn lambs and for ewes with young lambs at foot the result can be offspring getting separated from ewes and dying of hypothermia or starvation.

“The outcome could be a vet putting a healthy dog down which is distressing for the owner and could easily be avoided by following the countryside access code.”

John Fyall and Gill MacGregor in a field with sheep

Farmer John Fyall and Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals senior inspector Gill MacGregor both star in the Sheep Watch campaign video © Quality Meat Scotland

Dog-owner problem

Carol McLaren, QMS head of communications, added: “A key message of the campaign is sheep worrying is not a dog problem – it is a dog-owner problem.

“Any dog – whatever breed, size or age – has the potential to chase sheep and cause considerable harm but the responsibility lies with owners to keep their dogs under control and out of trouble.”

The Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime livestock worrying campaign advises dog owners to keep their pets on a lead at all times and avoid going into fields where livestock is grazing.

Farmers and those who use the countryside are urged to report all incidents of livestock worrying to police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.