A new initiative is underway in Ayrshire targeting irresponsible local dog owners.
NFU Scotland’s Ayrshire region has teamed up with local police to launch the initiative on the back of the union’s Control Your Dog on Farmland campaign, which launched in February.
At Girtridge Farm, Drybridge, South Ayrshire, regional manager Christine Cuthbertson met local farmer and NFU Scotland member John Howie and Police Scotland to launch the local initiative.
John Howie’s pregnant flock of 45 sheep suffered an attack by a dog on March 4, and there is still uncertainty if one pregnant ewe which was hurt will survive, with unknown damage potentially caused to the flock. Sheep can abort their lambs or have problems in future breeding if they suffer dog attacks – no matter how minor.
Local events are planned to educate dog walkers on their responsibilities when walking on or near farmland, as well as publicity material available to local businesses and farms to raise awareness of the national campaign.
The key messages are aimed at farmers and dog owners and include: be informed – know your responsibilities under the Code; plan ahead – know your route, ensure you have poo bags and a lead; control your pet - keep dogs on a lead around livestock and know the steps to take if things don’t go to plan – cattle charging, dog escapes; picking up your dog’s poo is not enough, take it with you and put it in a bin, even if on the fringes of farmland. Do not just ‘flick it’ into the bushes.
Regional manager Christine Cuthbertson said: “Many people underestimate the damage dogs can do – whether that is attacking livestock when being off a lead or causing them to contract dangerous diseases through their poo – we need dog owners to take responsibility for controlling their dogs.
“With many farms and fields being nearby to public areas, particularly in Ayrshire, it is even more important that dog owners ensure their pets are kept on a lead around farmland, and that they pick up after their pets.
“Attacks on livestock are happening all too often and we need the support of local dog owners to help prevent this. You think your dog is ‘just playing’ with the sheep but that could change in an instant and you will have no way to stop the dog when it starts to attack.”
Farmer, John Howie said: “Most of our fields are next to towns and village, and I have no doubt that if the person responsible had kept their pet under control then it would have prevented their dog from attacking my sheep.
“It’s not just the financial damage caused to us, but also the emotional impact for ourselves and the sheep when such an incident occurs.
“Please make sure your dog is on a lead when walking on farmland – even if you can’t see livestock they could just be over the hill or hidden in a dip. It’s not worth the risk, to you, your dog or the livestock.”
Sergeant Alan McDowall added: “Livestock worrying is a criminal offence and continues to be an area of great concern. I would urge all dog owners to keep their dog on a short lead and under close control when near livestock.
“Furthermore, if you reside adjacent to land where livestock is kept please ensure that your dog is in a secure environment when left unattended.”