THE National Sheep Association (NSA) is calling for visitors to the countryside to show more consideration and respect for the land, people who farm it, and livestock.

NSA has received an alarming increase in reports of attacks on sheep by dogs over recent weeks, most likely linked to continuing Covid-19 restrictions, including several regional and national lockdowns across the UK.

While the countryside is a great location for people to benefit physically and mentally from time outdoors at this time, this cannot be at a cost to farmers and their livelihoods.

NSA urges the public to take responsibility for their actions when in the countryside, and especially near livestock.

Dog owners must keep their animals under control and on a lead when walking near sheep. Not only do dogs pose a threat of injury to sheep but, at this time of year, when most ewes are already or soon to be in lamb, the stress of being chased can lead to the pregnant sheep losing their lambs.

Sheep worrying is also a traumatic experience for the farmer, with several studies carried out by NSA showing that the risk of a potential attack happening causes significant stress and anxiety to farmers.

Recent cases of sheep worrying have resulted in dogs being shot as a last resort option to halt a serious attack. This, of course, is never an action carried out by a farmer with ease but the law states that a farmer is in his/her rights to shoot an animal if it is found to be in the act of worrying livestock and dog owners should be aware of the potential danger they put their pet dog in if they are not responsible while out walking.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “It must be stressed to owners who allow their dogs to chase, attack and potentially kill livestock that it is a criminal act – and for very good reason. Few people would understand the stress and anger that a farmer or shepherd goes through by finding a dog attacking and killing sheep and very occasionally this can result in dogs being shot.

“Attacks on sheep often cause huge financial cost for the farmer but for most the initial stress and anxiety is equally impactful. The only way to avoid incidents like this is for dog owners to take proper responsibility for the dogs – know where they are at all times and keep them on leads anywhere in the vicinity of livestock.”

Further information available for dog owners and others on how to be responsible walking in the countryside can be found on the NSA website at