A SHEEP farmer is pleading with dog owners to keep pets on leads after his livestock was savaged and worried to death.

Gavin Davies, manager of Stowell Farm near Pewsey, has lost three ewes and a lamb following the latest incident.

“I have three other lambs with broken legs, two that are struggling to walk and and as a result of the dead ewes, six lambs are orphaned,” he said.

“This is the worst case in all my 13 years here.`”

“It happened overnight, and it appears some local dogs got loose without their owners' knowledge,” said Gavin. “We are really hoping the lambs with broken legs pull through, but it is looking doubtful.”

Police are now investigating the attack which happened last week, but the dog owner responsible has come forward.

“We are seeing more of this sort of thing, as lockdown and the better weather sends people out into the countryside,” Gavin, of Oare, said.

“Even seemingly quiet and small dogs can be a problem. Owners sometimes say to me that ‘my dog won’t chase’. But there is always this risk, if a sheep runs past, they will often chase.”

He thinks the lamb injuries were caused by dogs grabbing their legs and shaking them or driving them into fencing where they have struggled, wrenching their legs. They are now being cared for by the estate’s shepherds, who have splinted their legs in the hope they will heal. They are bottle feeding the orphaned lambs which are about three months old.

“The ewes will have either died from shock or exhaustion.”

“I just want to make people aware of this, as I genuinely think some dog owners don’t understand what can happen.

“I had one woman say to me that her dog was ‘only rounding the sheep up, and not doing any harm’. It may look that way, I suppose, but it is particularly dangerous for pregnant ewes.

“We had some miscarry their lambs because they get very stressed, and this is what dog owners don’t see.”

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Livestock worrying is a criminal offence and the penalty can be six months' imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £1,000. Wiltshire Police say that livestock worrying is not just if your dog bites or attacks livestock.

It is if your dog chases livestock in such a way as may be reasonably expected to cause suffering or not having a dog on a lead or under close control when near or in a field with livestock.

The RSPCA says if your dog worries livestock you may end up being sued for compensation. As a last resort, a farmer is legally allowed to shoot a dog which is threatening their animals.

An RSPCA survey revealed that 24 per cent of the owners polled had dogs who’ve chased livestock, wildlife and other animals. And while 29 per cent of them had sought help for this behaviour, 37 per cent didn’t feel that it was a problem.