A new “sheep-wise” campaign to warn the public about the consequences of failing to control their dogs in the countryside, has been launched this week by the National Sheep Association of Scotland and Quality Meat Scotland.
Scotland’s rural organisations are uniting behind the campaign which also has the support of the Scottish SPCA, Police Scotland, the British Veterinary Association, NFU Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates and Scottish Natural Heritage.
Timed to coincide with the run-up to the Easter weekend, when 1000s of people and dogs venture into the countryside, the initiative includes a high-impact, two-minute film aimed at highlighting the devastation, for farmers and dog owners, caused by sheep worrying.
The film features powerful, first-hand accounts of sheep worrying from Aberdeenshire farmer John Fyall, also chairman of NSA Scotland, vet David McLaren, of Kirkton Veterinary Centre, Stonehaven and Gill MacGregor, Scottish SPCA Senior Inspector.
Narrated by a dog lover, the film also articulates the anguish which dog owners face, along with potential criminal prosecution, if they fail to control their dogs properly in the countryside.
This united awareness follows a recent radio advertising campaign by Scottish Natural Heritage and the on-going Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) livestock worrying campaign.
Kathy Peebles, NSA Scotland vice-chairman, said: “For farmers, as well as lost income, it is heart-breaking to witness horrendous injuries in the sheep they work hard to look after.
“For pregnant ewes, the result of being hounded by dogs can be miscarriage of unborn lambs and for ewes with young lambs at foot the result can be offspring getting separated from ewes and dying of hypothermia or starvation.
“The outcome could be a vet putting a healthy dog down which is distressing for the owner and could easily be avoided by following the countryside access code.”
Carol McLaren, Head of Communications with Quality Meat Scotland, added: “A key message of the campaign is that sheep worrying is not a dog problem – it is a dog-owner problem.
“Any dog – whatever breed, size or age – has the potential to chase sheep and cause considerable harm but the responsibility lies with owners to keep their dogs under control and out of trouble.”
Mike Flynn, Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent, also urged people to ensure their dogs are kept secure at home because in many cases the source of the problem is dogs which are unaccompanied and allowed to stray from home.
“The Scottish countryside is a great place for people to enjoy with their dogs but, by failing to think and take simple steps, dog-owners run the risk of a carefree walk turning into a nightmare.
“It can be hard for people to believe that their loyal, loving pet can change so dramatically when they start to chase sheep. The message is clear – don’t risk it. Be sheep-wise and keep your dogs under control in the countryside.”
Inspector Jane Donaldson, Police Scotland’s Rural Crime Co-ordinator, added: “Police Scotland recognises that the worrying of livestock can have devastating consequences for farm animals and has an obvious financial and emotional impact on farmers and their businesses, particularly during the spring lambing period.
“The Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) livestock worrying campaign runs from February-May and the advice to dog owners is to keep your dog under control at all times and avoid going into fields where livestock is grazing. Farmers and those who use the countryside are urged to report all incidents of livestock worrying to police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.”
More information for dog owners is available by visiting www.outdooracess-scotland.com
The picture shows Aberdeenshire farmer and chairman of NSA Scotland, John Fyall and Gill MacGregor, Scottish SPCA Senior Inspector who feature in the “Sheep-wise” film.