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At the end of a month which saw two separate attacks on sheep near Inveraray, rural insurer NFU Mutual is calling for owners to keep their pets under control over Easter.
Sheep with new-born lambs are especially vulnerable to attacks by dogs during spring months as they are often grazing on low-lying fields close to footpaths.
The average cost of claims for farm animals killed or injured by dogs dealt with by NFU Mutual now more than doubles during the first three months of the year. Scotland was one of the worst affected parts of the UK with an estimated cost to farming of £330,000 in 2017.
New research by the insurer has revealed that more than 80 per cent of dog owners exercise their pets in the countryside, with more than 60 per cent letting them roam off the lead.
Shockingly, almost seven per cent of owners admitted that their pets had chased farm animals in the past and one in ten owners don’t put their pets on a lead if they see a sign warning that livestock are in a nearby field.
While the majority of owners let their dogs off the lead, less than half (42 per cent) said their pet always came back when called – and only five per cent admitted their dogs are so disobedient they never come back when called.
The insurer is also increasingly concerned by reports that many attacks are being caused by dogs which have been let out in gardens and escape to attack sheep in neighbouring fields. NFU Mutual’s research found that 43 per cent of owners allowed their dog to go outside unaccompanied while they were not at home.
‘These attacks cause tremendous suffering to livestock and are hugely distressing for farmers and their families who have to deal with the aftermath of an attack,’ said Tim Price, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual.
‘Much of this heartbreak could be prevented if owners kept their dogs under control – either on a lead or secure in gardens – whenever farm animals could be nearby.’