RSPCA appeal for dogs to be kept on leads after four sheep from same flock in Hartington are killed

Dog owners are being urged to keep their pets on leads near livestock after the death of four sheep from the same flock in Hartington in recent months.

In the latest incident, a sheep had to be rescued when she fell from a clifftop onto a ledge after likely being panicked by an out-of-control dog.

The RSPCA was called to the incident off Wolfscotes Dale in Hartington on Sunday, January 2 after a member of the public reported seeing the stranded sheep on the high cliff ledge.

Animal rescue officer Andy Sowden attended the scene and could see the animal was trapped ten metres down from the clifftop and with a 30 metre drop below her - so he called Derbyshire Fire and Rescue for assistance.

Firefighters had to be called in to help rescue a sheep stuck on a ledge after being panicked by an out of control dog

Andy said the farmer believed an out-of-control dog was responsible and he had dealt with four similar cases of sheep dying - either after running off the cliff top in a panic and falling to their death, or following a dog attack.

The farmer said: “We were very lucky this sheep had fallen onto a ledge and thanks to the RSPCA and fire service she was rescued and unharmed from her ordeal.

“In another recent case a dog chased two sheep off a cliff and they fell to their deaths from a 30 feet drop.

“Both had two lambs each who were so frightened that they ran off and we struggled to find them. They later returned to the dead bodies of their mums so we were able to rescue them.

In the latest incident, a sheep had to be rescued after she fell from a clifftop onto a ledge after likely being panicked by an out-of-control dog

“In another incident a dog attacked two lambs who were left with severe wounds and were sadly unable to recover.

“We have had this problem for a while now and we are concerned that it will get worse as more dog owners seem to be using this area.

“We really need dog owners to put their dogs on leads when near livestock, and be responsible.

“We would like more signage put in the area to tell people how vital this is especially as more people seem to be walking their dogs in this popular National Trust area.”

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Andy added: “A walker had spotted the sheep’s predicament so reported the matter to us.

“When I attended I could see we were going to need the help of the fire service’s rope team and they kindly came to the rescue and the animal was winched to safety and happily returned to its flock.

“We often work with the fire service and are always grateful for their assistance.

“The farmer told me in recent times he has had a number of sheep which have fallen off cliffs and to their deaths and believes in all cases they have been frightened by dogs which have been off the lead and they have runaway in panic and sadly died.

“We really need to stress the importance of keeping your pet under control or on a lead in the countryside to avoid these devastating attacks - especially in this area which is close to the River Dove and very popular with dog walkers.

“Whilst the vast majority of people take care as a matter of course, sadly accidents can happen and even the most docile and obedient dogs can get distracted and excited by grazing animals.

Dog owners should remember it is lawful for farmers to shoot a dog to protect livestock which would be distressing for everyone involved; and owners can face a police prosecution if their dog is caught worrying livestock.

“Even if you think your dog is placid and friendly, when faced with a field full of livestock they can be unpredictable. It’s simply not worth taking the risk – keep your dog on a lead when near livestock.”

The National Sheep Association (NSA) also backed the RSPCA appeal.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker added: “The National Sheep Association is frustrated that despite sustained efforts to highlight the serious nature of sheep worrying attacks on dogs that we continue to hear of devastating cases such as this.

“We would like to make a plea to dog owners to please keep their dogs on leads whenever there is a chance livestock could be nearby and avoid walking closely to them if at all possible. You may not consider your dog capable of chasing and attacking sheep but it is an instinctive response and could endanger the lives of sheep, unborn lambs and even your own dog if caught in the action of an attack.”

The RSPCA has now issued the following guidance to dog owners:

*Always check for livestock in fields when walking your dog/s.

*Always make sure you shut gates behind you.

*When in fields with livestock, it is vital that your dog/s are kept on a lead and under control at all times. The only time you should release your dog is in the event of being chased by cattle. By restraining the dog in this circumstance you are putting yourself at risk of being injured by the cattle.

*If your dog chases, scares or attacks sheep, report it to the farmer even if there is no apparent injury as the stress of worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die and pregnant ewes to miscarry their lambs

*If you live near livestock and own a dog/s make sure that your property and garden are secure so your pets cannot escape.

*If you are worried about your dog’s behaviour visit the RSPCA’s website to find a suitable behaviour expert.