FARMERS are warning dog owners they may shoot their pets if they run loose and injure sheep - after a spate of attacks in countryside in and around Sheffield.
The latest incident was on Burbage Moor on Easter Monday, when three loose dogs attacked a ewe, ripping a hole through which her unborn lambs could be seen.
Another pregnant sheep needed surgery for face and neck injuries after being worried by a dog in the Mayfield Valley, Fulwood.
Liz Rhodes, who runs Greenhouse Farm in the Mayfield Valley, said: “Incidents of livestock being worried is fast becoming a national crisis for farmers. Had the dogs been on a lead both events would not have taken place. No farmer likes to shoot a dog that is worrying sheep but, in extreme cases, they will.”
She added: “Owners are responsible for dog’s actions and can face prosecution.”
Both incidents have been reported to police. Describing the attack on Burbage Moor, Liz Rhodes said: “Three dogs not on leads worried a heavily pregnant ewe and possibly more, causing one ewe terrible injuries.
“Passers-by went to the ewe after witnessing the event and could see the terrible injuries sustained by the dog attack.”
She added: “The local farming community does appreciate that people like to enjoy the countryside, and we are not saying all dog owners are irresponsible, but please keep dogs on a lead.
“Sheep at this time of year are heavily in lamb or with young lambs at foot, and even a dog chasing them causes them great distress and can cause pregnant ewes to abort their lambs or die from the trauma of being chased. What chance do lambs face against a dog chasing them?”
The Peak District National Park Authority is urging dog-walkers to keep their pets on short leads to protect young animals and birds during the breeding season.
Sheep with lambs, ground-nesting birds like curlew and lapwing, and wild creatures such as hares, are easily scared by dogs running free or on extended leads.
Wader recovery project officer Tara Challoner said: “Spring and early summer are critical times especially for breeding birds. They need to be undisturbed to give them the best chance of laying a good number of eggs and raising as many chicks as they can.”