A Luton farmer has lost more than 20 sheep to dog attacks in the past 12 months.
Now the RSPCA is reminding dog owners and walkers of the importance of keeping their pets under control to avoid devastating attacks on livestock.
The call comes after the farmer, who grazes his flock on Sundon Hills Country Park, Sundon, has lost six sheep in recent weeks as a result of dog attacks.
The farmer, who does not wish to be named, has said that over the last 12 months alone 21 sheep have either been killed or put to sleep.
The RSPCA is now reminding dog owners and walkers of the importance of keeping their pets on leads around livestock.
RSPCA Animal Collection Officer Kate Wright said: “It is heartbreaking to hear that so many sheep have died as a result of dog attacks, which could have easily been prevented had the owners just kept their dog on a lead and not let them run loose near livestock.
“Whilst the vast majority of people 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.
“You may think that if your dog momentarily chases a flock of sheep and comes back relatively quickly that there would be no harm done, but even if there are no visible injuries, actually it could be causing the animals a lot of worry and anxiety, which can be really harmful to their health. Ewes have been known to abort unborn lambs whilst under stress which is just tragic.”
In more extreme cases, severe attacks can happen which have a devastating effect on the livestock, resulting in severe injury and death.
PC Chris Naughton, from Bedfordshire Police’s rural crime team, said: “Following the recent incidents in Sundon Hills, we support the RSPCA’s call for owners to keep dogs on leads around livestock. If you have a dog, please keep it in sight and under control, as the impact of these attacks can be terrible for all involved.”
Dog owners should also remember that it is lawful for farmers to shoot a dog to protect their livestock - which no one wants to happen. Owners could also be prosecuted by police if their dog is caught worrying livestock.
There is a very simple way to stop any of this happening though – keep your dog on a lead around livestock.
The RSPCA is also urging dog owners to spread the word about being responsible around livestock.
If anyone sees a dog attacking a flock of sheep they are urged to call the police immediately.
For more information visit www.rspca.org.uk/pets to learn more about responsible dog ownership or if you are worried about your dog’s behaviour visit the RSPCA’s website to find a suitable behaviour expert.