Owners urged to keep pets on a lead

SHEEP farmer Jim Fletcher is warning dog owners to keep their pets on a lead near livestock after one of his rams was badly mauled this week.

Jim, who has a flock of over 2,000 sheep grazing on land across Fenland including Doddington and Chatteris, found the £500 ram suffering horrific injuries to his rear legs and back following Thursday’s attack.

Fortunately the ram, which was one of 28 currently grazing on a field at the Pocket Park in Doddington, survived but needed extensive veterinary treatment including numerous stitches to repair gashes to his legs.

Jim, who is based at Nordelph, but originally comes from Manea, said this latest incident is the seventh or eighth suffered by his sheep in the last 12 months.

He said the number of dog attacks on sheep has been getting steadily worse and blamed a lack of understanding on the part of owners for the increasing problem.

“I don’t think people realise how serious it is to let their dog chase sheep. I spoke to an owner not that long ago when I happened to come across them walking their dog. The dog was chasing the sheep and when I asked them to catch it and put it on a lead they turned round and said the ‘dog is just playing’.

“But while it may be a game to the dog, it is not a game for the sheep.

“Dogs are basically domesticated wolves and they naturally hunt, chase and kill things,” said Jim, who said the in the worst attack at Pymoor near in Ely in February three ewes and four lambs were killed.

However, it is the Pocket Park which has seen the largest number of incidents and Jim said the increase is not as the result of dogs running around after escaping.

“The attacks are happening when people are walking their dogs and letting them off the lead.

“There is a polite notice up asking people to keep their dogs on a lead because they are entering a field with sheep in it, but they just ignore the notice.

“On one occasion we actually caught the Alsatian which had killed two lambs.

“The police came and returned the dog to its owner, but nothing else was done. On another occasion I had a very upset man contact me to say his dog had killed a lamb - he was so upset about it he was having his dog put down.

“But if dogs are kept under control it wouldn’t happen in the first place. I would urge people to think before letting their dogs off the lead. If there is livestock of any sort nearby then they should keep them on the lead that way there’s no danger of an attack,” said Jim.

He said Doddington Pocket Park has become a no-go zone for ewes and lambs because of the high number of incidents there over the past few years.

“We keep rams there because they tend to herd together and fight a dog off, but it seems that even they are not safe there now,” added Jim, who said the attacks are so frequent he can now tell what sort of dog is responsible for an incident by the injuries suffered.