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Farmers are being invited to an event near Dorchester to learn more about how to prevent dog attacks on their land and how to manage them if the worst happens.

Sponsored by NFU Mutual, NFU, Dorset Rural Crime Team, Synergy Farm Health, the National Sheep Association (NSA) and Liverpool John Moore University, farmers are invited to the event on Friday 24 May to understand more on what to do when faced with a dog attack, how to protect their livestock, how vets can help, future deterrents and an opportunity to talk to their local Rural Crime Team.

Speakers include PC Seb Haggett and PCSO Chris Mullens from Dorset Rural Crime Team; Emily Gascoigne, Synergy Farm Health; Gemma Harvey, NFU Dorset; Nicola Noble, NSA; and Dr Nick Dawnay, Liverpool John Moore University. Farmers from key cases across the UK will also discuss their experiences.

The latest figures from the UK’s leading rural insurer NFU Mutual reveal that farm animals worth an estimated £2.4 million were severely injured or killed by dogs in 2023, up nearly 30% compared to the previous year. South West England was the worst-hit region in the UK by cost (£359,000) followed by the Midlands (£331,000).

Matt Uren, senior agent at NFU Mutual in Dorchester, said: ‘The shocking rise in the cost of dog attacks on livestock in the South West is incredibly alarming. This event will not only raise awareness about the impact of this crime but highlight what work is being done by the industry to help tackle it.

‘All dogs are capable of chasing, attacking and killing farm animals, regardless of breed, size or temperament. We’re urging all dog owners to be responsible for their pet and keep them on a lead when walking anywhere near livestock, but let go if chased by cows.’

NFU Mutual’s latest survey of over 1,100 dog owners found more people admitted to letting dogs off leads in the countryside last year than in 2022. Worryingly, less than half (49%) said their dog always came back when called.

Last month a private members bill, which gives police greater powers to crack down on livestock worrying, passed the committee stage in the House of Commons.

Sergeant Natalie Skinner, of the Rural Crime Team at Dorset Police, said: ‘Whilst most dog owners are responsible, we know that accidents can happen, and even the most obedient dogs can get distracted and excited by grazing animals, which may lead to an attack.

‘In the unfortunate event that your dog is involved in an attack, please report it to the police immediately so that the animals can get the medical attention they need.’

Nick Dawnay, a forensic scientist from Liverpool John Moore University will talk about the emergence of new technology and using forensics at the scene of livestock crime.

He said: ‘For the last few years, we’ve been working with police and forensic labs to help develop, promote and apply new methods for the collection and analysis of canine DNA recovered from livestock.

‘We’re now giving training and collection kits out to police, vets and livestock keepers across the UK to help collect more samples for our research.’

NFU Dorset county adviser, Gemma Harvey, said: ‘Livestock worrying is a real issue here in the South West and many NFU members in Dorset have been affected by the result of dogs entering their farm land and killing or injuring their animals.

‘Not only do these dog attacks affect farmers practically and financially but also emotionally as farming families really care for their animals and their welfare.

“Hundreds of sheep and cattle die as a result of injuries caused by dogs every year and these incidents cause extreme distress for farmers and their livestock.sheep worrying Dorset

‘For many years, the NFU has been working with government and police leaders to agree the proposed legislation giving police more powers to investigate dog attacks on livestock.

‘No matter how in control dog owners think they are, they should always remain alert and dogs should always be kept on a lead around livestock.’

Nicola Noble, project manager at the National Sheep Association (NSA), said: ‘Livestock farmers need protection against dog attacks and the police need more support to achieve the desired outcome after the devastation of a dog attack on livestock, while being able to deter future attacks.’

Specialist sheep vet and farmer, Emily Gascoigne from Synergy Farm Health, added: ‘Livestock worrying poses a significant threat to animal health and welfare. As a sheep vet, too often we see the consequences of irresponsible dog management and as a farmer, having been on the receiving end.

‘On May 24th we will be looking at what farmers can do immediately after an attack to maximise care and success with cases, and decision making for the animals injured.’

The event takes place at Bhompston Farm, Dorchester, DT2 8QN on Friday 24 May 10am-1pm. Refreshments, including pasties, will be provided.

To register, please email nfu_south@nfu.org.uk or call 02476 939 404

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