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New lambs on Scottish farms at high risk of dog attacks over Easter holiday

By Kirsty Brown

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NFU Mutual is calling for Easter visitors to the Scottish countryside to keep their dogs under control to protect new-born lambs in the nation’s fields.

The leading rural insurer is worried that grown-up ‘pandemic puppies’ could cause even greater carnage this Easter if let off-lead in the countryside.

Research conducted by NFU Mutual shows 73 percent of dog owners (up from 64 percent last year) now allow their pets to roam off-lead in the countryside – despite 49 percent admitting their dog doesn’t always come back when called.

Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual Rebecca Davidson said: “With Easter falling late this year, most lambs on Scotland’s farms have been born and are highly vulnerable to dog attacks – so we’re asking owners to keep their pets on the lead whenever livestock could be nearby.

“With many people planning an Easter trip to the countryside with dogs which aren’t used to being around sheep, we’re worried there could be a surge in attacks.

“As the weather improves for the bank holiday, we understand people want to make the most of the countryside, however it’s crucial that this is done responsibly.

"While harmless at home, gentle family pets can quickly turn to their natural instincts out in the fields, leaving a trail of horrific injuries to sheep and new-born lambs.

“Owners need to be aware that it’s not just large dogs that attack sheep - even small dogs can cause deaths by chasing sheep round fields until they die from stress, or separate new-born lambs from their mothers.”

NFU Mutual Easter countryside dog walking advice:

  • Always keep dogs on the lead when walking in rural areas where livestock are kept - but let go of the lead if chased by cattle.
  • Recognise that even small dogs can cause the distress, injury and death of farm animals.
  • Report attacks by dogs to the police or local farmers.
  • Don’t let dogs loose unsupervised in gardens near livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs that escape and attack sheep grazing nearby.

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