MORE than two thirds of the UK’s sheep farmers responding to a recent survey have experienced an increase in sheep worrying attacks by dogs during the past year, according to a survey by the National Sheep Association (NSA).

This troubling statistic is part of a concerning set of findings from the NSA's recent farmer’s survey assessing the incidence and impact of sheep worrying by dog attacks across the UK.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker believes the findings, allied to other industry figures, show that the problem has been exacerbated by lockdowns.

“NSA’s own survey results combined with recently reported figures from industry partners both show a concerning increase in the number of sheep worrying by dogs cases during the past year," he said.

"There is much evidence suggesting this is a result of the various periods of national lockdown that have been experienced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic with dog ownership increasing and the general public enjoying more time in the countryside as one of the few outdoor pursuits still able to be enjoyed.

“The issue is receiving more attention from the media but there is still much work to do to continue the education of the dog owning public to ensure the future safety and welfare of both farmer’s sheep flocks and pet owner’s much loved dogs and this needs to come from strengthened countryside use guidelines and stricter legislation.”

NSA says it received a record-breaking response for its 2021 survey specifically aimed at farmers who had experienced dog attacks in the past year.

On average, each respondent to the survey experienced seven cases of sheep worrying during the past year resulting in five sheep injured and two sheep killed per attack.

Estimated financial losses through incidents of sheep worrying of up to £50,000 were recorded, with an average across all respondents of £1,570.

However, most respondents received no or very little compensation.

But in addition, farmers completing the survey reported feelings of anxiety, anger, upset, stress and frustration as a result of sheep worrying by dog attacks with more than half recognising that this was causing a moderate to severe impact on their mental health.

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