UFU and Dogs Trust collaborate to tackle livestock worrying

In a bid to tackle livestock worrying across Northern Ireland, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has teamed up with Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, to raise awareness of responsible behaviour when venturing through rural areas and the training opportunities that are available to enhance pet safety. Both of which are vital to help protect the wellbeing of livestock and dogs.

Commenting UFU deputy president John McLenaghan said, “Livestock worrying continues to be a huge problem for our farmers, especially when the weather improves, and more dog owners are visiting the countryside for recreational activity. This new collaboration with Dogs Trust is a very positive development and enables us to try a fresh approach to tackling this issue.

“The most common concern that farmers have, and one that happens too often, is dogs being let off leads or getting free in rural areas where livestock is present. What some pet owners seem to misunderstand is that by allowing this to happen, they are putting their own dog at risk as well as the cattle and sheep in the area. We want to ensure the safety of all animals and individuals in the countryside and keeping dogs under control and on a lead at all times is the best way to achieve this.

“If a dog enters a field with livestock and dismisses orders by their owner to return, quite often the owner will follow the dog into the field. This is extremely dangerous especially when cattle are present. Daily, farmers are extremely cautious around cattle and when a strange animal and person enters their area, even stock that are usually very mild tempered can become stressed and retaliate.

“I also urge dog owners to clean up after their pets. Parasites can be transmitted to livestock through dog waste that is infected and has been left on grazing land. Farmers are then left to care for a sick animal adding additional costs because a pet owner did not act responsibly. All we ask is for understanding and respect, so that everyone can enjoy the beautiful landscape that we have on our doorstep.”

In 2023, livestock worrying attacks doubled in Northern Ireland compared to 2021 and 2022, and the UFU is constantly working to raise awareness of the issue.

Sascha Cox-Tennyson, Team Leader Community Education and Engagement at Dogs Trust Northern Ireland said, “Dogs enrich our lives, but they also bring a level of responsibility. Whilst many of us enjoy taking our dogs for long walks, we urge dog owners to consider their surroundings, particularly when visiting areas where they might encounter livestock.

“When visiting rural areas, owners should keep their dogs under control and ensure they do not worry other animals during walks, as well as disposing of their dog’s waste appropriately. We would advise keeping your dog on a short lead, and close to you, especially whenever livestock are nearby. It is important to remember that chasing is normal dog behaviour, and that any dog is capable of chasing, irrelevant of breed, age or size.

“It is important that dogs learn to come back when called and your pet pays attention to you whatever the distraction. It is also essential that you can call your dog back in an emergency. This invaluable skill is particularly important if you are likely to encounter farmed animals on your walks.”

Dogs Trust Dog Schools across the UK provide the perfect opportunity for dogs to learn vital skills like recall in their classes.  You can find your nearest class in Northern Ireland at: www.dogstrust.org.uk/dog-advice/dog-school.