Livestock worrying cases on the rise

Dog walking across the countryside may seem like a harmless activity, but it is becoming an increasingly large issue for farmers. The number of cases of livestock or sheep worrying have been growing rapidly. Research now suggests that more than 18,500 livestock had been killed or injured in dog attacks in 2017 and that injuries cost farmers up to £1.1 million in lost productivity1

Livestock worrying refers to cases where dogs attack or chase livestock, causing them serious harm. This applies even if the dog doesn’t catch them. The stress of worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die and pregnant ewes to miscarry their lambs.

This obviously causes farmers significant problems including loss of income, knock on effects for breeding programmes, damage to property and time spent on treatment of animals2.

Who is responsible?

Many people often think that they have the right to walk freely with their pets across a farmer’s land. Under the Countryside Rights of Way Act (CROW), anyone is allowed access to open land for recreation, however it states that the public are only permitted if their dogs are kept on a lead near livestock.

Dog owners are responsible for any damage caused. The act states that: “If a dog worries livestock on any agricultural land, the owner of the dog, and if it is in the charge of a person other than its owner, that person also, shall be guilty of an offence.”3

What can you do to protect your flock?

Make sure you take the following steps to protect your livestock:

  • Make sure the fences erected along your land boundary are fully intact and have no holes in them that dogs can get through.
  • Add signs warning dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead.
  • When possible, keep sheep in fields away from footpaths.
  • Check your flock regularly in case any have been attacked.
  • Report any attacks to the police immediately.
  • Farmers are permitted to close areas of public land containing sheep to dogs for up to six weeks once a year as a safeguard during lambing.
  • Most importantly, your insurance policy can provide cover for livestock worrying under a farm combined policy so that you are covered should the worst happen. You can find more information about our farming cover here or talk to one of our farming specialists for more information.


1 - http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/180/13/314

2 – https://www.nationalsheep.org.uk/dog-owners/sheep-worrying/

3 -http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/1-2/28/contents