The RSPCA is urging dog owners to always keep their pets on leads near livestock after four sheep from the same flock died in recent months.

Two sheep were savaged to death and a further two fell to their death after being attacked by loose dogs in the Peak District in Derbyshire.

In the latest incident, a walker alerted the RSPCA to a sheep stranded on a high cliff ledge in Hartington on 2 January.

Stranded sheep on cliff edge

© RSPCA

See also: What to do if you’re a victim of… sheep worrying

Animal rescue officer Andy Sowden attended the scene and found the sheep trapped 10m below the clifftop with a 30m below, so he called Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service and asked for help.

Firefighters from Buxton and a specialist rescue unit from Alfreton attended the scene to assist the RSPCA with the rescue operation.

Firefighters pull sheep to safety

© RSPCA

Crews used rope and rescue equipment to lift the sheep from the ledge before releasing it safely.

Mr Sowden said the farmer had told him in recent times that a number of his sheep had fallen from cliffs to their deaths.

In all cases, he believed the animals had been frightened by dogs that had been off the lead and they had run away in panic and died.

Firefighters and RSPCA rescue stranded sheep

© RSPCA

Sheep killed

The farmer said: “We were very lucky this sheep had fallen onto a ledge and thanks to the RSPCA and fire service she was rescued and unharmed from her ordeal.

“In another recent case, a dog chased two sheep off a cliff and they fell to their deaths from a 30ft drop.

“Both had two lambs, who were so frightened that they ran off and we struggled to find them. They later returned to the dead bodies of their mums so we were able to rescue them.

“In another incident, a dog attacked two lambs who were left with severe wounds and were sadly unable to recover.

“We have had this problem for a while now and we are concerned that it will get worse as more dog owners seem to be using this area.”

The farmer stressed that dog owners must put their dogs on leads when near livestock, and be responsible.

“We would like more signage put in the area to tell people how vital this is, especially as more people seem to be walking their dogs in this popular National Trust area,” he said.

Mr Sowden added: “While the vast majority of people take care as a matter of course, sadly accidents can happen and even the most docile and obedient dogs can get distracted and excited by grazing animals.

“Dog owners should remember it is lawful for farmers to shoot a dog to protect livestock, which would be distressing for everyone involved; and owners can face a police prosecution if their dog is caught worrying livestock.”

NSA frustration

The National Sheep Association (NSA) said it was frustrated that despite sustained efforts to highlight the serious nature of sheep worrying attacks on dogs, they continue to hear of devastating cases such as this.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “We would like to make a plea to dog owners to please keep their dogs on leads whenever there is a chance livestock could be nearby and avoid walking closely to them if at all possible.

“You may not consider your dog capable of chasing and attacking sheep, but it is an instinctive response and could endanger the lives of sheep, unborn lambs and even your own dog if caught in the action of an attack.”

RSPCA advice for owners walking dogs near sheep

The RSPCA has issued the following tips for dog owners to encourage responsible behaviour when out and about enjoying the countryside:

  • Always check for livestock in fields when walking your dog
  • Always make sure you shut gates behind you
  • When in fields with livestock, it is vital that your dog are kept on a lead and under control at all times. The only time you should release your dog is in the event of being chased by cattle. By restraining the dog in this circumstance, you are putting yourself at risk of being injured by the cattle
  • If your dog chases, scares or attacks sheep, report it to the farmer even if there is no apparent injury as the stress of worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die and pregnant ewes to miscarry their lambs
  • If you live near livestock and own a dog, make sure your property and garden are secure so pets cannot escape
  • If you are worried about your dog’s behaviour, visit the RSPCA’s website to find a suitable behaviour expert

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