It’s that time of year again, where the countryside becomes alive with new life and many of us start to venture out more! Easter is typically associated with many things (mainly chocolate!) the Easter Bunny and to me, lambs being born.
Sheep are curious creatures, having 4 stomachs to help them digest grass and there are over 90 different breeds of sheep in the UK. They also help maintain our countryside and have done so for many generations. The smallest breed of sheep comes from a French island and are called Ouessant Sheep measuring in at only 46-49cm tall while a popular breed of sheep many of you might have seen on social networking sites are the Valais Blacknose, with their long woolly coats and black noses. But when you go out for your Easter walks and to see the lambs, there are a few things to remember to keep our woolly friends safe.
Dogs MUST be kept on leads around livestock, even if your dog is normally fine. You might not think you are worrying the sheep but remember sheep are prey animals and are trying to protect their young whether pregnant or with lambs at foot. Your dog doesn’t have to catch/touch a sheep to cause harm, merely the chase can cause stress and death to sheep. It is also an offense to allow your dog to worry sheep meaning the owner or whoever is responsible for the dog at the time will be committing an offence if the dog chases, attacks or causes suffering to livestock. A police officer may seize a dog suspected to be worrying livestock and if convicted of an offence under this Act then a person may be liable to a maximum fine of £1,000. So to keep your beloved companion safe, make sure you respect signs of livestock and check fields before entering. Simply don’t let them off the lead near livestock, after all, prevention is better than cure!
It should be noted that a farmer may be able to shoot any dog worrying livestock if there are no other reasonable means for stopping the dog from doing this. To avoid this, keep your dog on a lead at all times when livestock are around.
Secondly, clean up after your dog and take the evidence home! Did you know that your dog poo could cause abortion of unborn lambs and calves? Ingesting dog faeces/infecting grassland can cause disease and even death to sheep and cattle. Furthermore, the poo bags can be ingested by curious cows and nosey sheep, again resulting in suffering or even death.
We are very lucky to have such beautiful countryside to explore in Norfolk and Suffolk, we just need to make sure we respect those who live in it… the animals!