Dogs are wonderful animals that enrich our lives, but in light of last month’s dog attack at Westlands Farm, we’d like to remind all our readers the importance of being a responsible pet owner this season and keeping your dog under control around livestock.

The National Farmers Union’s Love Your Countryside campaign is urging dog owners to take more responsibility this autumn by keeping their pets under control, particularly around pregnant livestock.

Tupping and mating happens at this time of year when ewes and cows get more worried and stressed. Pregnant sheep when stressed are prone to aborting their lambs so even if your dog does not make contact with a sheep during chase, it can still lead to huge financial loss for the farmer. Bulls and rams can also be more agitated during this period.

The campaign is highlighting the issue all this week to make the public more aware that extra care should be taken when out walking with dogs.

Daryl Brown, who had three of his Pedigree sheep mauled to death by out of control dogs last month said: “Having experienced a dog attack first hand we believe it is even more important to educate members of the public. Lots of dog owners do not realise what their dog is capable of and we urge everyone who takes dogs out into the countryside to keep them under control, especially around livestock. We want everyone to enjoy the countryside but members of the public need to realise that not only is it our place of work but that our livestock are our livelihood and passion”.

The NFU is reminding dog owners that when walking with dogs in fields with livestock, the advice is to keep your dog close, under effective control, and on a short lead. If you feel threatened release your dog so you can both get to safety separately.

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “Remember that our animals are our livelihood and we can’t risk having them distressed, hurt or killed by dogs with irresponsible owners. So, be responsible by following a few simple do’s and don’ts and back British farming. ”

Somerset farmer, James Small, has had several sheep attacked by out of control dogs. “Sadly, all of this hard work can be undone through one thoughtless action; we’ve had dogs attack sheep in the past, causing them to panic and scatter which can lead to them aborting their lambs. In the worse instances, the dog, or dogs catch the sheep and attack it, leading to serious injury or death for the sheep.

“Please follow the countryside code when out with your dog and please keep it on a short lead and under control. Provided visitors follow the advice to keep themselves and the animals that are grazing safe, there shouldn’t be any problems.”

President of the British Veterinary Association John Blackwell said: “Open access to the countryside is important and it’s a good environment to give your dogs the exercise they need.

“But we need to be sure that our dogs are under control particularly around livestock. The very presence of an unfamiliar dog in a field of livestock will immediately put the stock on alert, and this will be even more so if they are free ranging. It can also have some quite nasty consequences to enter a field of cattle with a dog, as the perceived threat can escalate to a situation when the cows go into maternal protective mode and charge to try and remove the threat. Thankfully we see rare occurrences of this but we do hear of fatal consequences’ every year.”

The countryside is beautiful this time of year and the perfect place for a fun family day out. But remember, no matter how well behaved your dog, keeping it on a lead is a simple gesture that can save a lot of heartache for both farmer and dog owner.

Please share and keep reminding people to keep their dog on a lead.