Increase in dogs attacking livestock on Dartmoor – police and partners work together to support communities

In the last five years there have been 500 attacks from dogs on livestock in Devon and Cornwall with year on year increases being reported by farmers. This part of Dartmoor has some of the highest number of reports to police in the county. It is believed that not all livestock attacks are reported, and the real figure may be much higher.

The Police Rural Crime Team spent two days last week supporting Okehampton and Tavistock neighbourhood beat teams raising awareness of livestock worrying in locations on Dartmoor in West Devon.

The police joined patrols with Dartmoor Park Rangers, Dartmoor Livestock Protection Officer and a representative of the Dartmoor Commoners Council to speak to visitors and residents about the issue.

Livestock worrying around sheep is nothing new and the after-effects of attacks (often too distressing to show in photographs) have been raised regularly in local and national press. Both the National Farmers Union and National Sheep Association have drawn attention to the problem. The NFU provided figures in 2018 that in four years farmed animals worth £1M had been killed or injured by dogs.

One route the police and partners in the Dartmoor community have taken to try and reduce the number of attacks and to try to support farmers by bringing education and conversation about the problem to areas where it is being reported. With the start of the West Country 2020 holiday season upon us and even more people enjoying the national park, the message about keeping dogs under control is even more important.

Local police officers, the police Rural Crime team, Special Constables, Dartmoor Rangers, The Dartmoor Livestock Protection Officer and representatives from the Dartmoor Commoners Council were out at various time visiting locations near Meldon Reservoir, Belstone, the Army Camp, The Pimple, Plaister Down, Roborough Down, Longash Airfield, Porkhill and Westdown to speak to people visiting the area and farmers about the problem and offering advice on how to reduce it.

Dozens of sheep each year are killed or injured in Devon with many of the incidents believed to go unreported to the police. Police Rural Crime Officers in the county are continuing to raise awareness in the hope that dog owners and walkers put a stop to the issue by making sure their dogs are under close control when out walking on the moor and other farming areas. If you have information about a dog which chases or attacks livestock, please let the police know or by passing information to Crime Stoppers 0800 555111.

Sergeant Nathan Walker of Devon & Cornwall Police, based in Okehampton said: “Livestock worrying is a national crime priority. The West Devon neighbourhood policing team, along our local partners on Dartmoor, were happy to be out encouraging the safe use of the moor. We engaged with people using the moor at Sourton, Belstone and Okehampton Camp, raising awareness of the issue and providing information. We urge people to keep their dogs under close control when walking near livestock.”

Dartmoor Livestock Protection Officer – Karla Mckechnie added: “Having a dog is a massive responsibility which is further increased when you bring your dog to Dartmoor. Farmers have witnessed and suffered the consequences of out of control dogs over the years and we are asking dog owners to keep their dogs under control and take the necessary steps in ensuring their dogs are trained and kept on leads around livestock at all times.”

Dartmoor Commoners Council’s Sara Sloman – “Education and awareness are key tools in highlighting the sensitive issue of livestock worrying. All the animals on Dartmoor are owned and Dartmoor is a living and working environment that needs to be safe. Many commoners have lost animals through livestock worrying which has caused both emotional and financial strain on their livelihood.

The message is very simple …. please keep your dog on a lead around livestock.”

Devon & Cornwall Police Rural Crime Officer, PC Martin Beck said: “It’s really important and easy to put a stop to the suffering cause by dog attacks on livestock. Responsible dog walkers keep their dogs under close control and, when near sheep, on a lead. What you may think is your dog playing with sheep could be livestock worrying and a criminal offence. We have been in the national parks around Okehampton and Tavistock and will be working with the police teams on Dartmoor over the summer to highlight the issue. We hope with the help of dog walkers and local people we can reduce the number of attacks.”

Dartmoor National Park Ranger, Ian Brooker added: “We work in partnership and with the community to make the park a safe place to live and visit. It is time to remind people about the importance of controlling dogs on the moor so we don’t have livestock and ground nesting birds harmed. There is some important information about this on our web site and other information about making your visit to the park safe and enjoyable www.dartmoor.gov.uk.”

For more information visit: www.dc.police.uk/livestockworrying. If you have information about a dog which chases or attacks livestock please report to police by emailing [email protected] or by passing information to Crime Stoppers 0800 555111.

Source:: Devon and Cornwall Police News

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