Written on 03/04/24 by Paul Oldham

Herdy supports sheep safety this spring

The iconic Cumbrian brand Herdy has teamed up with Cumbria Constabulary, Lake District National Park Authority, National Farmers Union (NFU), and the National Trust to raise awareness of the importance of keeping dogs on leads to protect sheep, especially in the lambing season. A colourful poster featuring the iconic Lake District character has been launched as a reminder.

Stop & Think #LeadOn poster

Around 50 sheep worrying, and dog attack incidents are reported to the Police in Cumbria on an annual basis, which can land dog owners with prosecutions and fines and many more go unreported. Sheep worrying is now considered a criminal offence, with the police having increased powers to respond to livestock worrying incidents, and, in the most serious cases, to seize and detain dogs.

Amanda McKirdy from Cumbria Police's Rural Crime Team says:

People are shocked when they hear that this is a crime that can lead to hefty fines and prosecutions and even lead to dogs being shot. It is so easy to avoid, as our new Herdy posters say – just keep your dogs on leads when around sheep. We've seen a rise in labrador, and spaniel type family pets being involved in these traumatic incidents so it's even the cutest of dogs who can snap and cause damage to livestock. Please don't take the risk.

Herdwick ewes on Troutbeck Tongue
Herdwick ewes on Troutbeck Tongue

Claire Foster, the Lake District National Park Authority's Farming Officer comments:

The Herdy posters are fantastic at grabbing people's attention, and we hope that they will encourage people to act responsibly in the countryside. Please simply take the advice and keep your dogs on leads when on farmland this Easter. This is a critical time of year in the farming calendar. Our Lake District farmers work hard to care for their livestock 24/7, and this simple action can easily avoid harm to sheep and lambs, and stress for farmers. It is better to be safe than sorry.

National Trust tenant Farmers Dan and Ruby Cappleman from Seatoller Farm in Borrowdale said:

It is so important to keep your dog on a lead around livestock, and in particular during the lambing season. Pregnant ewes can become extremely stressed, even in the presence of a dog, never mind being chased or even worse, being attacked. Pregnant ewes can easily miscarry from this stress, which results in health issues for the sheep and a loss of income for the farmer.

When you're out walking during this lambing season, please be aware that sheep can pop up anywhere, it is their natural habitat on the fells and your dog will be able to detect them before you may even see them, and even dogs with a great recall can be completely ignorant to their owners once they are onto a scent.

NFU Cumbria county chair, John Longmire, said:

There was a big rise in dog ownership in lockdown and many people don't understand what can happen in the countryside when they don't have control of their dogs. Sadly, the situation has been getting worse.

It does have a financial impact on farm businesses, but the animal welfare issue is the main concern.

It is really awful to see the animals suffer in this way and it is upsetting for the pet owners who just didn't expect their dog was capable of such things.

Keeping dogs on leads in the spring also helps protect ground nesting birds and other wildlife. Making sure to always follow the Countryside Code, leaving gates as you find them, parking responsibly, taking rubbish with you will go a long way in helping look after this historic landscape while keeping other visitors and the local community safe.

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Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions.