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Officers issue warning to dog walkers to keep their pets on leads in rural areas

Police officers from Hampshire Constabulary’s Country Watch team are issuing a warning to dog walkers to keep their pets on leads in rural areas or potentially face prosecution.

This follows a number of incidents in Basingstoke and Deane, where owners have been walking with dogs off their lead or not under close control. Their pets have then chased, and in some cases, attacked livestock.

Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, it is a criminal offence for a dog to actively worry livestock.

Our officers want to make sure that owners are aware that in such instances, the owner or person in control of the dog can be prosecuted, and the dog can be shot by the farmer to end an attack.

Members of the Country Watch team will be increasing their proactive patrols of hot-spot areas as the weather begins to improve.

There have been several incidents of note in the Basingstoke and Deane district this year.

In January and February, there were reports of walkers allowing their dogs to run freely and chase sheep in Wootton St Lawrence.

Three lambs have now been killed in separate incidents at a farm in Stoke, near Andover, by dogs and on several occasions owners have become verbally abusive to the farmer. This occurred throughout February and March 2022.

There were several incidents in Ramsdell, near Basingstoke, in March and April. On one occasion, a dog gained access to a field containing sheep and chased them.

It is believed that the stress of this, and similar incidents, may have led to the failed pregnancy of several ewes. A Community Resolution was issued to the responsible dog owner.

In April, a local dog in the Kingsclere area gained access to a field of sheep, attacking several, which caused injuries that required treatment.

Enquiries are ongoing and officers continue to investigate the incidents.

In addition to increased routine patrols in rural and countryside areas across Hampshire, our officers will also be seeking to utilise the use of Force drones in areas where we have seen incidents occurring previously.

This will allow them to counteract and manage the issue around livestock worrying or animals being attacked by dogs.

Our advice to those walking their dogs in rural areas is to:

  • Keep your dog on a lead or under close control at all times, not just when in a field with livestock
  • If there is no livestock in the field, keep the dog in sight at all times, be aware of what it is doing, and be confident it will return to you promptly on command. If you cannot be confident of this, the dog should not be off the lead
  • Ensure the dog does not stray off the path or area where you have right of access.
  • Will Butcher, the Basingstoke District Rural, Wildlife and Heritage Crime Officer, said: “This time of year is lambing season, which makes ewes and their lambs particularly vulnerable.

    “Many of those who have reported incidents are repeat callers who have lost multiple lambs and paid thousands in veterinary fees for injured animals.

    “Shepherds report that they get a mixed response from dog owners when challenged, some are apologetic but others can be hostile.

    “I would like to remind dog owners that they must be mindful of livestock – even if they can’t see them – when out and ensure that they keep their dogs on the lead.

    “This will play a vital role in reducing the number of livestock worrying incidents in rural areas, which can lead to the loss of animal lives or cause undue stress to the animals; all of which has huge ramifications for farmers.”

    As always, if you see anything suspicious please dial 101, or report it to us via our online reporting tool on the Hampshire Constabulary. If a crime is taking place please dial 999.

    For more information about the countryside code, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code.

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