Dealing with dogs that worry livestock

It's against the law to allow a dog on any land with livestock unless the dog is properly controlled by a chain or leash held by the person in charge of the dog. These tips will help to stop pets from worrying livestock and explains what farmers can do.

The Countryside Code

The public are not allowed in open country (mountains, moors, heathland, hills, woodland, cliffs, foreshores, marshes, bogs or waterways) with a dog that is not under proper control.

The Countryside Code for Northern Ireland stresses that dogs should be kept under control and kept on leads when walking on roads or near farm animals. The code also asks dog owners to bear in mind the distress that dogs can cause to farm animals.

Sheep

If a dog worries sheep by attacking or killing them or chases sheep in a way that may cause injury, suffering or financial loss to their owner, the person in charge of that dog is guilty of an offence. The penalty for this offence is a fine of up to £1,000.

The harm that dogs can do

Chasing by dogs can cause serious damage to sheep, even if the dog doesn’t catch them.

The stress of worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die and pregnant ewes to miscarry their lambs.

Sheep fleeing from dogs are often killed or seriously injured by their panicked attempts to escape, damaging fences and field boundaries in the process.

Dog bites can cause death in sheep, require them to be put down at a later date or result in expensive veterinary bills.

Tips for dog owners 

  • if you’re walking in rural areas keep your dog on a lead at all times - especially if there are grazing sheep about
  • keep a check on fences and gates in order to keep your garden as secure as possible to stop dogs getting out
  • get a dog trainer to educate your dog on how to behave around sheep and other livestock
  • having your dog’s favourite toy or ball with you when you go out may also help to stop them focusing on the sheep

What farmers can do

Farmers should check stock regularly, maintain walls, fences and hedges with the aim of making it more difficult for dogs to get access to fields where livestock are grazing.

They should alert other farmers in the area if loose dogs are seen near livestock.

When livestock are attacked by dogs, take photographs and video footage of the attack and attacked livestock, the whole scene if possible as well as detailed close-ups and ear tag numbers. If you can, get a veterinary examination - expert medical evidence is useful for any criminal charges that follow.

All incidents of sheep and livestock worrying should be reported to local council dog wardens as and when they happen.  The dog warden will then carry out an investigation. Reporting to the police is not required unless a criminal offence has been committed.

Download the guide

All of the above mentioned details can be found in the following guide which you can download:

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