WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGE: "Dogs will be shot", warns Rivington farmer after rogue dog mauls pregnant sheep to death
A farmer in Rivington has threatened to shoot any dogs caught off their leads in her fields after a pregnant sheep was mauled to death.
Megan Needham, of Higher Knoll Farm, issued the stern warning to dog owners after the latest attack on her flock.
The 27-year-old, who works on the family farm in Rivington, said her sheep have been attacked 15 times since November. Ten of the sheep have died as a result of the attacks.
Megan took to social media to vent her grief and frustration after the death of a sheep in lamb on Tuesday, February 19.
She has launched a campaign - 'Take the lead in Rivington' - to remind dog walkers of the danger that dogs can pose to livestock.
To drive the campaign, Megan is using graphic images of the injured sheep to raise awareness of sheep worrying and its gruesome consequences.
She is also reminding dog walkers of a farmer's legal right to shoot a dog that is considered a threat to livestock.
She said: "This is what we have just had to witness at our yard, this poor sheep in lamb has been attacked yet again by a dog this morning.
"When are people going to learn? It’s just common sense to keep dogs leashed.
"Just look at how much pain this poor girl is in now."
Megan made the grisly discovery in fields behind the Top Barn in Rivington on the morning of Monday, February 19.
The mauled sheep has since been put down due to the severity of its injuries.
An emotional Megan added: "How can someone let there dog do this and just walk away?
"We have had enough now. Any dogs found off leads in our fields will be shot.
"Since November I’d say we have had roughly 15 or so attacks and around ten fatalities due to them.
"It’s upsetting and sickening that people will walk off leaving these sheep in that sort of condition. It knocks me sick.
"We want everyone to enjoy the countryside and there is nothing better than taking the dogs and kids out to enjoy the fresh air, but please have respect.
"Not just for us farmers, but for our livestock, other dog walkers and members of the public.
"So please, keep your dogs on leads at all times."
The sheep deaths in Rivington follow an increase in attacks on livestock across Lancashire.
PC Nigel Keates, of Lancashire Police's rural crime team, said: "Remember, farmers can and will shoot dogs caught worrying livestock - so don’t take the risk.
"Your idea of "under control" and the perception of sheep and farmers may differ enough for your dog to be shot.
"Sheep worrying is a criminal offence, as well as the injury and suffering inflicted upon the animals, it can cause huge financial cost to the farmer and ultimately lead to prosecution of the owner or person in control of the dog at the time.
"We all enjoy a walk in our stunning countryside but remember that sheep are currently in lamb.
"It's not always obvious and ewes can very easily abort just by being worried by dogs.
"Worrying doesn't have to mean your dog biting or attacking, simply the fear of a dog running loose can be enough to cause distress to the animal.
"So please respect flocks. If you must take footpaths through fields with sheep please keep your dog close and on a lead."
The National Farmers Union said more needs to be done to educate people on the dangers of sheep worrying, particularity during lambing season.
NFU North West spokesman Carl Hudspith said: “Dog walkers are reminded that even the most docile of pets can cause serious injury and death to livestock if they are not walked responsibly, particularly if that dog is not familiar with livestock.
"We are fortunate to have access to so much wonderful countryside in Lancashire and it is great that local people can enjoy this with their dogs.
"It is vital that dog owners are responsible around livestock and follow recommended guidance to help ensure that they can have fun and safe days out in the countryside with their pets, without disrupting the important work of sheep farmers, especially during the lambing season.”
Advice for walkers:
Do• Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves.• Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.• Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.• Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead around cows and sheep
Don’t• Don’t hang onto your dog. If you are threatened by cattle - let it go as the cattle will chase the dog.• Don’t put yourself at risk. Find another way round the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.• Don’t panic or run. Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow just walk on quietly.