Lambs die in dog attack, as cost of worrying rises by 50%

A spate of sheep worrying incidents and a 50% rise in the cost of livestock attacks has spurred the National Sheep Association (NSA) to demand legislative action in a letter to Defra secretary Therese Coffey and Defra farming minister Mark Spencer.

It comes as the latest NFU Mutual figures reveal that the cost of dog attacks on livestock increased by more than 50% between 2019 and 2022, up from £1.2m to £1.8m.  

The finger has been pointed at the influx in dog ownership that came about during the Covid lockdowns, causing a sharp rise in livestock being severely injured or killed by dogs.

See also: Blenheim shepherds launch sheep worrying awareness campaign

Ahead of the Easter holidays, MSP Jim Fairlie has pleaded with walkers heading to the countryside to respect the countryside access code.

“There’s been two incidents in the last week and they’re both in my constituency,” Mr Fairlie told Farmers Weekly.

“The latest was a lad that I’ve known for many years, from being a shepherd and sheep farmer myself for 30 years.

“He was in the field in the morning, and went away for a couple of hours. When he came back, he found absolute carnage with six lambs already lying dead, 10 that were so badly injured the vet had to put them down, and he’s got another four that are still being treated.

“He’s renting the grazing, as a lot of sheep farmers do, so it’s not as if he can be there all the time.”


In Scotland, a recent change in the law has seen the penalty for sheep worrying raised significantly. If caught, dog owners now face a fine of up to £40,000, or 12 months in prison.

“They’re fairly steep penalties,” said Mr Fairlie. “It doesn’t matter what size of dog it is – it’s natural instinct is to hunt, and chasing sheep is fun.”

In England, the maximum proposed penalty for sheep worrying is significantly less, at £1,000 under the Kept Animals Bill – though even this has been delayed in parliament.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker voiced his frustration, calling for meaningful action to protect sheep farmers.

“Westminster has been sitting on key legislation, that would be a significant tool in the box to tackle sheep worrying, since summer 2021.

“The government must recognise its own increasing priorities on animal health and welfare, priorities shared by industry, yet these delays are allowing ongoing attacks on livestock to occur.

“It is really disappointing that nearly three years on from the introduction of the Kept Animals Bill to parliament, attacks on livestock are increasing in occurrence and severity.” 

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