Dangerous Dogs Act call after attacks on sheep soar

Sarah and Darren Rashley showing their Portland sheep Image copyright Sarah Rashley
Image caption Sarah and Darren Rashley are backing the call for tougher penalties for dog owners after their Portland flock was attacked three times

The insurance company NFU Mutual is calling on the government to update the Dangerous Dogs Act because of soaring attacks on farm animals.

The company is part of the Livestock Worrying Police Working Group which wants higher fines and restrictions on dogs being let loose.

NFU Mutual figures show sheep and other farm animals worth £3.5m were attacked by dogs in England in 2015-2018.

Tim Price of the NFU said attacks were at "historically record levels".

Image copyright Sarah Rashley
Image caption NFU Mutual estimates £1m worth of livestock has been savaged by dogs in the South West over the past four years

The rural insurer said police were often unable to take successful legal action against dog owners under the present legislation.

The 1953 Dogs (protection of livestock) Act does not cover some livestock such as lamas and limits penalties to a fine of £1,000.

It also makes prosecution difficult if the owner is not present when the dog attack occurs.

Mr Price said updating the law would allow police to seize dogs suspected of attacking livestock and for a DNA data base to be created so that dogs which are responsible for multiple attacks can be quickly identified and traced.

Dog attacks on livestock

  • Sheep and other farm animals worth £3.5m were attacked by dogs in England in 2015-2018
  • One in six owners admit their dog has escaped from home prompting concerns unsupervised pets are attacking livestock
  • The peak time for attacks is January-April during the lambing period

Source: NFU Mutual

'Pile of lambs'

Darren and Sarah Rashley have a six-acre smallholding near Yeovil, Somerset, keeping 60 Portland breeding sheep.

They are backing the call for the law to be updated after suffering three dog attacks on their sheep in the past two years.

Mr Rashley said he had spoken with his MP, Marcus Fysh, who said he would look into the issue.

In July an attack by two huskies left two lambs dead and others seriously injured by bites.

"I saw the huskies setting on one of them and found a pile of lambs with blood all over them," said Mr Rashley.

The dog's owner pleaded guilty and was fined the maximum £1,000.

Mr Rashley said the attack affected his ability to take the animals to shows which are the "shop window" to sell to other farmers.

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