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Heartbreaking: farmer's verdict on latest sheep attacks

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The NFU's Howard Bates
The NFU's Howard Bates

The horror of dog attacks on sheep is one of the most heartbreaking things a farmer can face.

That’s according to the chairman of the National Farmers Union’s Livestock Board in the South East, who is calling for dog owners to do more to prevent their pets attacking sheep.

Howard Bates, who keeps sheep himself at Beckett Barn Farm in Brookland on Romney Marsh, lost two of his sheep after a dog attack just before Christmas last year.

He was shocked to hear the news that armed police had to shoot a sheep which had been savaged by two rottweiler’s in Canterbury on Thursday.

~Listen: Howard Bates talking of the farmer's loss when sheep are killed>>>

In all four sheep had to be put down after the incident in a field off Downs Road in the city.

The action comes just weeks after dogs are said to have killed more than 40 sheep and an ostrich in the Ulcombe area of Maidstone.

Mr Bates said: "There is nothing more chilling than receiving a call from a neighbouring field saying that your sheep have been attacked by dogs.

"When you get there you could have a few lying around dead. You could walk the edge of the field and find one or two up against the hedge with their cheek ripped off, dripping blood and obviously in a deep state of distress and shock.

"If they are heavily in lamb the stress of being chased around for a prolonged period can cause damage to the unborn lambs.

"It’s a very sorry state indeed."

Mr Bates implored dog owners to keep their animals under control by keeping them on a leash when walking them near livestock.

Thousands of sheep and cattle die as a result of injuries caused by dogs every year. Livestock worrying costs the industry around £2 million per year.

Watch: See the video from an affected farmer at the top right of this page

If a dog worries livestock, the dog owner or the person responsible for the animal at the time is guilty of an offence under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 and may be sued for compensation by the farmer.

Kent Police’s head of the Canterbury district, rural and neighbourhood teams Jon Leslie said: "In these attacks the dogs revert to what they are, which is a carnivourous predatory hunter. That genetic imprint is very strong in every domestic dog and should not be forgotten."

He added: "These incidents can be quite traumatic for officers. Routinely we deal with people injured by other people or cars but when you deal with an animal which has been attacked and they are unable to defend themselves it does have an emotional impact on you."

• Related stories:

Armed police hunt dogs which killed sheep

Police mount night-time vigils after Maidstone sheep attacks>>>

• For more news from Canterbury, Whitstable, Herne Bay and Faversham visit kentishgazette.co.uk >>>

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