Sheep Worrying

Lambing season will soon be here in Cumbria, and no doubt there will be more incidents of dogs attacking sheep.

Farmers should ensure there are signs on public rights of way crossing their land asking the public to keep their dogs on a lead, or under close control, and making them aware of what may happen if they are not.

If livestock is being worried by a dog, the owner will be guilty of an offence under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 unless the dog is owned by the occupier of the land or owner of the livestock.

Farmers will be protected by the provisions of the Animals Act 1971 if they need to shoot a dog to protect their livestock. This Act provides a defence if a farmer kills or injures a dog which is seen worrying livestock. It also provides that the dog owner is liable for damages for any livestock killed or injured.

However, there is not a legal right to shoot dogs on sight. Farmers must try and prevent the worrying in the first place but if that cannot be done then they can shoot to protect their livestock. In short, there must be no other reasonable means of preventing, or ending, the worrying of the livestock.

How to prove this was the case? If possible by taking video footage or photos off a mobile phone. If there is a witness present his or her evidence could be invaluable.

If a dog is shot the farmer should ensure he notifies the police within 48 hours of the incident taking place.

The above applies when dogs are caught in the act. Unfortunately, many offences occur when farmers are not present, and the dog owner leaves without any further thought for the damage caused. Collecting the necessary evidence can then prove difficult.

For further assistance call Nicola Steadman on 01539 721945 or email

Published 15 February 2018

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