NFU Mutual estimates south west farm animals worth £273,400 were severely injured or killed by dogs in 2022.

Distracted dog owners who believe their pets would never attack farm animals are putting sheep in the south west at risk of horrific and fatal injuries, new research from NFU Mutual reveals.

NFU Mutual’s latest survey of more than 1,100 dog owners found that nearly four in ten dog owners admit their pet doesn’t always come back when called.

Furthermore, despite nearly two-thirds of dog owners admitting that their dogs chase animals, almost half believe their pet will not harm livestock.

Across the UK, dog attacks on farm animals costed an estimated £1.8 million in 2022. The Midlands was the worst-hit region where dog attacks on livestock with an estimated cost of £313,000, which was followed by the south west as the second worst costing an estimated £273,400.

“The Covid-19 pandemic saw a boom in dog ownership as many people purchased puppies for the first time, yet these may not have been trained properly or be familiar with farm animals,” said Phoebe Ridley, from NFU Mutual South West.

“It is concerning that these now fully-grown dogs will be visiting farmland as we get into spring at a time when pregnant ewes and newborn lambs are vulnerable.”

North Dorset farmer Alison Johnson has experienced a number of dog attacks over the last 10 years which left her cows and sheep either dead or seriously injured. Alison’s appeals to pet owners to keep their animals under control are often ignored.

South West Farmer: Terry Priest and his family say “hopefully that’s the end of it”Terry Priest and his family say “hopefully that’s the end of it” (Image: NFU Mutual)

Alison said:“Most people just don’t see what the problem is … they don’t understand this is our livelihood and the financial and mental impact this has.”

Sheep farmer Terry Priest from Holsworthy, Devon has also been involved in a series of livestock incidents, the worst being when eighteen of their lambs were killed in a single attack.

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Phoebe added: “We’ve heard reports from farmers that dog walkers are becoming more distracted, often on their mobile phones with their pets out of sight, and seemingly unaware of the carnage their dog could cause.

"Many dog owners are unaware that even if their pet doesn’t make contact with a sheep, the distress and exhaustion caused by being chased can trigger a pregnant ewe to die or miscarry whilst young lambs can easily become separated from their mothers.

“We are calling for dog owners to be responsible.”