78% of rural crime teams reported an increase in dog attacks on sheep over recent years, according to a survey from the National Sheep Association (NSA).

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has today (Monday, March 25) launched its annual ‘sheep worrying by dogs awareness campaign’ to highlight the severity of the issue through its survey results.

The survey of rural police teams also revealed that 76% of the forces responded to sheep worrying by dog incidents at least once a month.

57% stated that sheep worrying by dogs was their most frequently reported rural crime. 33% of them reported dealing with sheep worrying incidents on a weekly basis.

The campaign aims to highlight the severity of the issue, increasing awareness amongst dog owners of the importance of keeping their pets on a lead and under control whenever livestock might be nearby.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “The 2024 NSA sheep worrying by dogs survey has provided a useful insight to how rural crime teams are working to support farmers affected by attacks on their flocks.

“We know that cases continue to rise, however only a fraction of those do actually get reported to the police due to farmers believing there may be little this action can do, but NSA urges farmers to report all attacks as we continue to strive to reveal the true alarming level of this problem.

“Only then can we hope for much needed legislation to be brought about that punishes those responsible for these crimes appropriately and acts as a true deterrent to those who continue to ignore the recommendations to keep dogs on leads near livestock and to know where they are at all times.”


Further activity will take place during the NSA sheep worrying by dogs awareness week that will run for a week until Monday, April 1, 2024.

The campaign will include social media activity using the campaign hashtag #LeadOn as well as online case studies and content on the NSA website.

The NSA said its work continues to emphasise that chasing by dogs can do serious damage to sheep.

“The stress of worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die and pregnant ewes to miscarry their lambs, and sheep fleeing from dogs are often killed or seriously injured by their panicked attempts to escape,” the association said.

“Dog bites can cause death in sheep or necessitate them being put down at a later date, or in less severe cases considerable veterinary bills and additional welfare issues.”

NSA project manager Nicola Noble said the 2024 NSA survey has confirmed the “concerning rise” in sheep worrying by dogs cases.

However, she said there are “clearly positive steps” being made by rural crime teams to engage with dog owners in an effort to raise awareness and reduce these attacks.

“By working with the police and by using warning signs for dog owners when livestock are grazing in certain fields, were recognised as the best method of deterrence and can hopefully help farmers reduce the number of attacks on their animals,” she said.