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Dog owners must do more to stop their pets savaging lambs, says sheep farmer

PUBLISHED: 12:15 26 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:15 26 February 2019

Norfolk farmer Will de Feyter with his flock of sheep in East Ruston.  Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Norfolk farmer Will de Feyter with his flock of sheep in East Ruston. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2015

A Norfolk farmer who has seen lambs "torn apart" and chased into canals to drown says dog owners must take more responsibility for preventing horrifying attacks on livestock.

A lamb found injured after a dog attack at Will de Feyter's farm at East Ruston in May 2018. Picture: Hannah WaitA lamb found injured after a dog attack at Will de Feyter's farm at East Ruston in May 2018. Picture: Hannah Wait

Will de Feyter keeps 150 ewes at East Ruston, near North Walsham and his flock will soon be swelled with spring lambs which started arriving last week.

The lambing season is a high-risk time for dog attacks, which have cost East of England livestock farmers more than £190,000 during the last four years, according to figures released this week by rural insurer NFU Mutual.

Mr de Feyter says about a dozen of his animals have been killed or injured by dogs in the last five years. After a vicious attack last May left one of his ewes needing stitches, police helped him reclaim the £500 veterinary costs from the owner of the dog responsible.

But the farmer said while stronger penalties could deter some of these attacks, he also wants to foster a better understanding among pet owners about the dangers which even apparently-placid domestic dog breeds could wreak on vulnerable farm animals.

“It is absolutely horrible to see the stock you have looked after and raised from lambs to be pulled apart by a dog,” he said.

“But it is not the dog’s fault. It is the owners who have got to get more control of them.

READ MORE: Dogs escaping from gardens add to ‘devastating’ cost of attacks on farm animals

“We have got signs up on all the footpaths going through all of our grass fields which could have sheep in. So it is either ignorance about what their dog is capable of, or arrogance about what their dog is capable of.

“We have had it before that if you ask someone to put their dog on a lead you will just get sworn at.

“There are people who say: ‘You need better fencing’, but we have got a canal that’s 10ft wide which dogs can swim across, and electric fencing that dogs can jump over.

“The electric fences and the ditches and canals are there to keep my stock in, not to keep your dog out. Keeping your dog under control is your job.

“It is not fair for the sheep to be chased around and torn apart. There are plenty of other places to get your dog off the lead, whether it is the beach or public woodland. But if you cannot control your dog it shouldn’t be off the lead in the first place.”

Mr de Feyter is hosting a lambing day next month so people can see his animals and ask questions, in the hope that greater public understanding could reduce the risk of dog attacks.

• The lambing day takes place on Sunday March 17 at Nash’s Farm, Old Lane, Ridlington, near North Walsham, NR28 9NX

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