Hampshire police have issued a stern warning to canine owners, alerting them that farmers possess the legal right to shoot dogs in the event of an attack on sheep as the lambing season approaches in the coming months.
With sheep poised to bear lambs across the county during the imminent lambing season, law enforcement officials are urging the public to take preventative measures to avoid disturbing pregnant ewes.
In the event of a dog attacking sheep, the police emphasise that farmers hold the legal authority to use lethal force to halt the assault. A police spokesperson stressed, “It constitutes a criminal offence for a dog to actively worry livestock. Owners should be aware that in such instances, the person in control of the dog can be prosecuted, and the dog can be shot by the farmer to end an attack.”
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary has confirmed a steady influx of reports regarding incidents of livestock worrying involving unleashed dogs.
Explaining the concept of livestock worrying, the police spokesperson detailed, “Livestock worrying is when a dog attacks or chases livestock on agricultural land or is at large in a field with sheep, which can result in significant injury or suffering and, in the worst cases, death of the animals involved. This also has devastating consequences for livestock keepers, causing personal distress as well as significant financial costs.”
The legal framework governing such offences traces its roots back to the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953.
The spokesperson continued, acknowledging responsible canine owners but underscoring the risks posed by a small minority, stating, “We acknowledge that the majority of dog owners walk their dogs in a responsible manner, but unfortunately, there is a small minority whose recklessness puts the welfare of other animals at risk.”
In light of these concerns, Hampshire police provided guidance to ensure the safety of sheep during the upcoming lambing season.
The public is advised to assist if they encounter a sheep on its back, attempting to roll it over, and promptly informing the farmer of the situation if possible.
The authorities stressed the importance of keeping dogs either on leads or under strict control in the vicinity of livestock. For those walking dogs in fields without livestock, continuous visibility and control are key. Canine owners should be aware of their pet’s actions, confident in its obedience, and certain of a prompt return on command. In cases where such confidence is lacking, the dog should remain on a lead to prevent unintended incidents.
Furthermore, canine owners are urged to ensure their pets stay on designated paths and areas with granted access rights to avoid any potential harm to livestock.
As Hampshire gears up for the lambing season, these measures aim to foster responsible canine ownership and safeguard the welfare of sheep while reinforcing the legal consequences for those who endanger livestock.
In conclusion, as the lambing season looms, Hampshire police’s proactive stance seeks to balance the rights of farmers with responsible pet ownership. The legal provisions in place underscore the severity of the issue, with potential repercussions for canine owners whose negligence jeopardises the well-being of livestock. As the community prepares for the challenges of the season, adherence to these guidelines becomes imperative to mitigate risks and ensure the harmonious coexistence of farming and recreational activities.