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Operation Recall: UK Police Call On Everyone To Help Protect Livestock And Dogs

Incidents continue to be reporting regarding devastation caused by loose dogs attacking sheep in the local countryside.

Police have this week reported receiving regular reports of livestock worrying involving dogs off leads on the Isle of Wight.

Last year, Operation Recall was born, with national animal welfare charities, including Naturewatch Foundation and the RSPCA, joining forces with police and the National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU) to raise awareness and help tackle the issue.

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary is adopting Op Recall to ensure they are doing everything possible to keep family pets safe, as well as livestock.

Livestock worrying is when a dog attacks or chases livestock on agricultural land or is at large in a field with livestock, which can result in significant injury or suffering and in the worst cases, death of the animals involved.

This also has devastating consequences for livestock keepers, causing personal distress as well as significant financial costs.

Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, it is a criminal offence for a dog to actively worry livestock and dog owners risk prosecution.

Geoff Edmond, national wildlife co-ordinator at the RSPCA, said:

“Whilst the vast majority of dog owners take care as a matter of course, sadly accidents can happen and even the most docile and obedient dogs can get distracted and excited by grazing animals.

“Being chased by a dog causes the animals stress and anxiety, this can lead to pregnancy loss in livestock, and in some extreme cases, severe attacks can happen which have a devastating effect on the livestock, resulting in injury and even death.

"This also has an adverse impact on the farmers themselves, both in terms of their livelihood and the emotional toll of seeing their animals suffer."

Some key points to bear in mind this time of year to help with the welfare of livestock and your dog:

  • If you come across a sheep on its back, try to roll it over and raise the alarm with the farmer if this is possible.
  • It is so important to keep dogs either on leads or under close control around livestock.
  • If you are walking your dog in a field and there is no livestock, please keep the dog in sight at all times, be aware of what it is doing, and be confident it will return to you promptly on command. If you cannot be confident of this, the dog should not be off the lead.
  • Ensure the dog does not stray off the path or area where you have right of access.
  • It is a criminal offence for a dog to actively worry livestock. We want owners to be aware that in such instances, the owner or person in control of the dog can be prosecuted, and as a last resort the dog can be shot by the farmer to end an attack.

Police Staff Investigator Andrew Williams, from Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary’s Country Watch team, said:

“Sadly we do receive regular reports in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight of livestock worrying, including incidents of sheep and lambs being killed and seriously injured.

“Shepherds report that they get a mixed response from dog owners when challenged, some are apologetic but others can be hostile. 

“Remember – protect your dog and protect livestock. It is your responsibility as an owner to keep your dog safe and keep your dog on a lead.”

For more information on Operation Recall.

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