South West insurer Cornish Mutual is working with the region’s police rural crime teams to tackle the ongoing problem of livestock worrying.
Cornish Mutual insures farms and rural businesses across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset and launched the initiative to support its Members, who are affected by the problem all year round.
Cornish Mutual is offering its farming Members free signs to remind dog walkers to keep their pets on leads while around livestock. The insurer created the notices as a direct response to concerns raised by Members about the scale of the problem, and has so far donated more than 1,300 to farms across the South West.
Each year in the UK, around 15,000 sheep are killed by dogs a year at a cost of £1.3 million to the farming industry.
The warnings remind owners of their responsibility to keep their dogs under control while walking on footpaths in fields containing livestock.
The signs are hard-wearing, and robust against all weathers, and can be easily attached to stiles, gateposts or in dog walking hotspots. They are worded in such a way to ensure they comply with the law.
Cornish Mutual Member Richard Cuzens, is displaying the notices at Manor Farm in Litton Cheney, Dorset.
He said: “The signs are very clear in the message they are giving to dog walkers about the responsibility they have when entering a farmer’s field. People have the right to walk on a path with their dog, but many forget that the livestock in the field are our livelihood, and worth many thousands of pounds.
“Sadly, here at Manor Farm, we have experienced regular incidents of dogs chasing our sheep, and even attacking them, which meant they have to be destroyed. It is very unpleasant to see an animal in distress after it’s been attacked, and it not something you get hardened to. A farmer will also have to bear the brunt of any cost – of not only the loss of the animal, but the cost of disposing of it as well.”
Sheep worrying remains a constant concern for Richard, and other Cornish Mutual Members, and the signs from Cornish Mutual offer peace of mind that they have done all they can to remind walkers to keep their dog on a lead and under control.
PCSO Tom Balchin, Rural Engagement Officer with the Dorset Police Rural Crime Team, believes warnings such as this are vital, particularly around bank holidays and school holidays when attacks can become more frequent.
He said: “Last year, there were 51 reports of sheep worrying and dog attacks in Dorset, and we are up to 38 this year already.
“The signs are vital to remind dog owners, who are perhaps not from the area, that when they take their dogs out into the country they need to respect livestock.
“They can serve as a deterrent, particularly if someone is about to take their dog off the lead.”
Nick Bunting, Field Force Inspector at Cornish Mutual, said: “I live in the area where I work and I have seen firsthand the effect sheep worrying can have on farmers and landowners.
“We want to help people understand that you need to keep dogs – whatever the breed - on a lead while in farmers’ fields. Displaying notices can go a long way to help stop what can be a very serious problem before it happens.
“We created the signs as a direct response to our farming Members, who told us about the ongoing problem they face with sheep and cattle being chased and attacked by dogs. The notices demonstrate Cornish Mutual’s commitment to farmers, our Members and the rural community.”