Devon & Cornwall Police are supporting a national operation, launched by Cheshire Police, the RSPCA, and Naturewatch Foundation, to raise awareness of the impact of livestock worrying, and prevent attacks.

Sheep by coast

During 2023, Devon & Cornwall Police received 140 reports of attacks on livestock. As a result of these attacks, hundreds of sheep were killed either during the attack or later, as a result of the extensive injuries they received. 

A recent report from the National Farmers’ Union confirmed that dog attacks on livestock throughout the UK were estimated to cost £2.4 million last year, up nearly 30% compared to the previous year. The report stated that the South West was the worst-hit region, with attacks estimated to have cost £359,000.

To raise awareness about the consequences of livestock attacks, rural affairs officers and local policing teams are being supported by special constables and volunteers to engage with the public and provide advice on how to reduce livestock attacks.

“We’re fortunate to have such fantastic countryside on our doorstep and we expect lots of people will be out over the Easter weekend, but, with lambing season well under way, we need to work together to protect livestock,” said PC Julian Fry, Cornwall’s rural affairs officer.

“Whilst the vast majority of dog owners are responsible, sadly, accidents can happen, and even the most obedient dogs can get distracted and excited by grazing animals, leading to an attack.

“Livestock worrying can have serious consequences. So, if you’re walking your dog in an open space, make sure you dog is under effective control at all times. They should not be unaccompanied outside of the home, and their behaviour should always be managed, especially around livestock.”

Livestock worrying is a criminal offence. It is also an offence if a dog is not on a lead or under close control in a field or enclosure of sheep.

Dog owners are reminded that farmers have the right to take appropriate action to protect their livestock from attacks. Owners of dogs witnessed chasing or attacking livestock could receive six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £1,000.

If you witness an attack on livestock, police advise not to intervene. Keep yourself safe and call 999. Information relating to attacks on livestock that are not currently happening should be reported to the police online or by calling 101. Anonymous information can also be provided to CrimeStoppers online or by calling 0800 555 111.