The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is reminding all dogs owners, who are visiting the countryside this Christmas, to ensure they have their pet under control at all times.

It follows just days after a farmer in Lanarkshire was forced to shoot a dog caught worrying his sheep.

The dog was one of three involved in the incident in which six sheep were killed and 27 injured.

UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, said: “The issue of livestock worrying has not gone away and is a constant concern for farmers.

“During the holiday season the number of dogs that will be visiting rural parks and areas with their owners will increase and we urge everyone to make sure they have their dog under control at all times. It is not acceptable for any dog owner to allow their pet to roam freely through the countryside, especially where livestock reside.”

The message was also backed by NFU Scotland, which has run a 12-month ‘Control Your Dog’ campaign, urging pet owners to keep their dogs on leads and dispose of dog faeces appropriately.

Chestnutt added: “All dogs, regardless of breed or size, pose a threat to livestock – especially at this time of year when ewes are heavily pregnant and any chase by dogs, no matter how small, can result in a ewe aborting her unborn lambs.

If owners lack control when in close proximity to livestock, the situation could escalate very quickly, resulting in the death of one or more animals and causing serious financial loss and stress for the farmer.

Practise responsible dog ownership

“Dog owners must ensure that their pet is always on a lead when they visit the countryside [this Christmas]. If they live in a rural area or near farms, it is their responsibility to make sure that the correct measures have been taken so their dog cannot escape from their home and engage in a livestock worrying attack.”

This year saw an increase in the number of dog incidents in rural areas and many dog owners have been substantially fined and held accountable for the actions of their pet during 2019.

“No one wants to start a new year with a possible court appearance hanging over them because they didn’t have their dog on a lead and under control. This dire situation can be easily avoided, and I appeal to all dog owners to practise responsible dog ownership and play their part in helping to minimise the risk of livestock attacks.

“I also encourage all UFU members to report any incidences of livestock worrying to their local dog warden for investigation. With all involved parties working collaboratively, incidences of livestock worrying can be greatly reduced,” said the UFU deputy president.