Operation Recall: new initiative launched to tackle livestock worrying
A new initiative aimed at educating the public on the impact of livestock worrying has been launched this week by the police and animal welfare charities.
Cheshire Police, the RSPCA and Naturewatch Foundation have come together to create Operation Recall - an initiative that aims to raise awareness of the impact of livestock worrying and prevent future incidents.
Research from the National Farmers' Union suggests that incidents of livestock worrying are increasing - and incidents, according to the RSPCA, can have a "devastating effect". The NFU reports that the cost of livestock worrying to farmers has increased by 50% between 2019 and 2022 as the boom of puppies purchased during the pandemic came of age.
Geoff Edmond, national wildlife coordinator at the RSPCA, said: "Whilst the vast majority of dog owners 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.
"Being chased by a dog causes the animals stress and anxiety, this can lead to pregnancy loss in livestock, and in some extreme cases, severe attacks can happen which have a devastating effect on the livestock, resulting in injury and even death. This also has an adverse impact on the farmers themselves, both in terms of their livelihood and the emotional toll of seeing their animals suffer.
"Livestock worrying is a welfare issue for dogs too who could become injured during the incident themselves or could even be shot by the farmer. It's lawful for farmers to shoot a dog to protect their livestock - which no one wants to happen. Owners could also be prosecuted by police if their dog is caught worrying livestock. This is why it's so important for us to partner with Naturewatch and the police to educate the public, support our rural communities, and help prevent these devastating incidents from happening."
The scheme began as a local initiative in Cheshire - but will now hopefully be rolled out to other police forces nationally with the support of the newly established National Rural Crime Unit. An educational video has been provided to police forces to use as part of restorative justice after an incident has occurred. They have also partnered on an awareness raising campaign aimed at educating the public and preventing livestock worrying incidents.
PC Jim Clark, at Cheshire Police, said: "As a rural and wildlife crime officer, my heart sinks when an incident of livestock worrying or an attack is reported. I instantly know that this will have an effect on the livestock, the farmer, the offender, and sadly the dog involved too. Working in partnership with organisations such as the RSPCA and Naturewatch Foundation is brilliant, as we all bring a unique expertise to the project."
Kate Salmon, campaign manager at Naturewatch Foundation, said: "We think the devastating consequences for all animals involved in livestock worrying and attacks are massively underestimated, with it being a genuine possibility that your dog will also not make it home, which no one wants to see happen and could be avoided if dog walkers ensure they are acting responsibly."
The RSPCA's main advice for dog owners is to always keep their dogs on a lead around livestock.
It's important to take care even if you think your dog can't access to livestock
Hannah Doyle, from Sussex, had assumed that livestock were safe behind fences when she walked her dog in the local countryside. She said: "One day my dog went out with a new dog walker and for some reason they let him off the lead. He squeezed under a gate and started chasing some sheep.
"I was so relieved when the farmer reported that all the sheep were okay. The thought that an animal might have been hurt or killed – or my dog shot – was awful. I think it was a valuable lesson for both of us. Now I always keep him on lead even when livestock look like they're safely fenced in, just in case."
For more information on Operation Recall, visit: https://naturewatch.org/helping-end-livestock-attacks