Worrying rise in attacks on sheep by dogs

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ATTACKS on sheep by out-of-control dogs is on the increase in the Lothians and Borders, with the National Farmers Union receiving a number of calls from members whose sheep have either been attacked or chased.

The union’s regional chairman for the Lothian and Borders, Iain Orr, of Standhill near Bathgate, was one of those affected.

“Discovering sheep that have been killed or maimed by dogs is deeply distressing,” he said. “The fact that cases appear to be rising rather than falling suggests that local authorities and other stakeholders must take their responsibilities more seriously.

“We want to ensure that action is taken to educate dog walkers on the devastating effects that worrying has on sheep. By following the simple messages in the Scottish Outdoor Access code that requires dogs to be kept under close control in the countryside, these distressing incidents can be largely avoided. We want to encourage the public to use the countryside but do so in a responsible manner.”

Orr said that the union had asked West Lothian Access Forum to do all it could to highlight this issue and promote the code. He added that he was disappointed there was no access officer in post despite the onus being on the local authority regarding access.

In other areas, he said, access officers were a great help in informing the public and farmers alike of their responsibilities. “We would want one appointed in this area with some urgency,” he said.

While most of the problems reported relate to dogs outwith the control of their owners, there have also been sheep worrying cases with stray dogs. “We have also spoken with Lothian and Borders police force to clarify its role in dealing with cases of worrying,” said Orr.

“Its response suggests that a patchwork of personnel – police, wildlife crime officers, dog wardens and access officers – all need to be involved in tackling the problem.

“Only by having all stakeholders – farmers, local authorities and the police – working together can we avoid distressing death and injury to sheep and we would want to get everyone round the table as soon as possible.”