Enjoy the outdoors responsibly: sheep worrying

 Walkers and their dogs at Blea Tarn in Eskdale and Duddon Valley, Cumbria

Dog walkers are important guardians of the countryside often combining their love of dogs with their love of the outdoors.

Many of the popular Lake District walks cross through the farmland. National Trust looks after 90 tenanted farms in the Lakes many of them are sheep farms.

It is important that the dog owners keep their four legged friends close at heel and under control near livestock. Sheep worrying can and does have dreadful consequences, both for the farmer and for dog owners. There’s nothing worse than seeing your dog respond, often unexpectedly to livestock, by chasing after them and being powerless to stop the carnage.

By law, dogs must be controlled so that they do not scare or disturb livestock or wildlife. On open access land they have to be kept on short leads from March 1 to July 31 – and all year round near sheep. Close supervision is also required on public rights of way.

Chasing by dogs can do serious damage to sheep, even if the dog doesn’t catch them. The stress of worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die and pregnant ewes can also abort through the stress of being chased.  
Dogs chasing ewes and lambs can cause mismothering issues, with lambs dying from starvation or hypothermia when they become separated from their mother and fail to find her again.

Sheep fleeing from dogs are often killed or seriously injured by their panicked attempts to escape.