AN urgent appeal has gone out to Saddleworth dog owners to keep their pets on leads at the start of the lambing season.
The move comes in the wake of a photograph released on social media showing a four-week-old baby lamb with flesh torn from its back leg which led to it being euthanised by local farmer Darren Hough.
Although the picture was taken two years ago, Phil Stocker, Chief Executive of the National Sheep Association, told the Independent the number of attacks by dogs on sheep is “massively understating” the true scale of the problem.
He said: “A growing number of our members continue to tell us of some horrendous attacks they have suffered to their livestock.
“It is not only the harrowing injuries which out of control dogs have inflicted, but also the losses they have suffered as a result of dogs simply chasing livestock.
“The risk of heavily pregnant ewes aborting is extremely high after suffering the stress of been chased by dogs, not to mention the risk of young lambs becoming separated from their mother at a critical early bonding stage.”
And he warned: “Lambs will die from starvation or hypothermia when they become separated from their mother and fail to find her again.
“We know the majority of dog owners enjoy the countryside responsibly and that the horrific damage dog attacks can cause are isolated to a small number of people, but the impact of some dog walkers not using a lead is huge.”
To help underpin the message, pupils at Saddleworth School are being shown this picture of Amy Hough, Darren’s daughter, with a new born lamb, on the school’s TVs.
Speaking at his farm, perched 1,200ft on a hilltop with views over Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire, Darren declared: “Dog owners can all play their part in keeping our flocks safe.
“All we ask is they keep their pets on leads at all times when they see sheep.”
The campaign is being backed by the National Farmers Union and now the Peak District National Park are urging visitors to keep their pets on short leads to protect wildlife.
By law, dogs must be under control on public rights of way and on a short lead on open access land from March 1 to July 31. In fields containing farm animals and nesting birds, it is sensible to keep dogs on leads.
Peak District National Park access and rights of way manager Mike Rhodes said: “Walking a dog is one of the joys of being in the countryside.
“But we need all dog owners to keep their pets under proper control during this sensitive time.
“For its own safety, never let a dog approach or chase farm animals or wildlife – your dog could get kicked, trampled or lost and it could be legally shot for chasing farm animals.
“It is not a legal requirement to use a lead on public paths, but you should be extra vigilant in the breeding season and always use a lead if you can’t rely on your dog’s obedience.
“Dogs are not allowed at all on some moors to protect sensitive breeding sites – and signs indicate this on site.”
To report incidents involving dogs on farmland or moors, call the police on 101. To ask for signs in problem areas, call Peak District National Park on 01629 816200.
More advice can be found online at: www.naturalengland.org.uk/countrysidecode