DOG owners have been urged to keep their dogs on a lead in the countryside after reports of livestock worrying and theft in Cumbria.

Since the introduction of Cumbria Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team on September 19 this year, Cumbria Constabulary have received nine reports of dogs worrying livestock where the dog owner was present.

Within these nine reports, four resulted in a livestock death. In the same period, Cumbria Constabulary reported that seven livestock thefts had taken place across the county.

The most recent reports relate to sheep worrying in the Coniston and Burgh-by-Sands areas.

Dog owners who are found by police allowing their dog to be off lead and worrying animals can face a fine up to £1000 and farmers are legally entitled to shoot dogs that are endangering their livestock.

Cumbria Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team have worked with the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Cumbria’s Deputy Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (DPFCC), Mike Johson to raise awareness of the issue by reaching out to the public on social media and by installing signage in areas targeted.

DPFCC Mike Johnson said: “Livestock is an incredible asset to farmers across Cumbria and the loss of animals can have a tremendous effect on their livelihoods.

“Farmers put a lot a care into ensuring that their livestock are healthy to keep their business viable and having these animals stolen from them or carelessly killed due to a thoughtless dog owner really can impact them financially and psychologically.

“I would urge any dog walkers to follow the countryside code and make sure that their dog is on a lead when in a field with livestock – we don’t want any animals to be put at risk unnecessarily.

“I would also urge all farmers to report anything suspicious to the Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. They know their land and area more than anyone and can spot suspicious activity much easier and can be the eyes and ears for the Police.

“Together we can make Cumbria a safer place to live, work and visit.”

These are some steps that farmers can take to reduce the likelihood of their livestock being stolen as well as increase the chance or return of livestock if they are stolen. These steps include:

  • Making regular checks to fields to check on livestock and ensure perimeters are secure.
  • In addition to ear tags, use branding or horn marking to make the livestock more identifiable.
  • Secure gates and hinges to minimize access to fields and yards.
  • Report suspicious behaviour to Police.

Sergeant Amanda McKirdy, Cumbria Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team, said: “Our Rural Crime Team work closely with the NFU and our farming communities, so we know only too well the impact which livestock worrying and theft can have on the farming industry in Cumbria.

“We do not tolerate criminals targeting livestock and we will do everything we can to identify offenders and hold people accountable for their actions.

“Farming communities can also take steps to protect themselves by following the crime prevention advice we promote which includes ensuring gates and hinges to fields and yards are in place, and in good working order.

“Livestock worrying is also a serious matter. I’d urge dog owners to ensure they follow the countryside code and that their dogs are under control and on leads when in a field or around livestock.”

NFU County Adviser, James Airey said: “Highly organised gangs of criminals have continued to plague the British countryside, stealing expensive GPS equipment, livestock, high-value farm machinery, as well as trespassing on private land.

“It is good news that we have a dedicated Rural Crime team now in Cumbria to help combat these issues that cause disruption to important farm work, it places additional pressures financially and emotionally on farmers and their families.”