PEOPLE heading into the countryside for fresh air and exercise are being urged to keep dogs under control.
Stratford-based rural insurer NFU Mutual is calling on people to be responsible as farmers work under pressure.
The insurer says farmers’ efforts to keep food supplies moving are being disrupted by the need to patrol flocks under threat from out-of-control dogs in fields.
Farm animals worth £1.2million have been savaged by dogs last year
NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Rebecca Davidson said: “The spring sunshine and social distancing is bringing people out to the countryside at a time when sheep and their new-born lambs are particularly vulnerable to attack.
“There are real concerns that people are congregating in the countryside and putting others at risk by crowding in rural areas. We are urging people to maintain social distancing of two metres apart and not put others, including farmers and other walkers, at risk.
“In farming areas experiencing very high influxes of walkers with dogs, farmers are having to spend additional time patrolling flocks to try and prevent attacks by dogs which is hindering them from getting on with the vital task of producing food for the nation.
“UK farmers are working under immense pressure at the moment to feed the nation through the coronavirus outbreak and we are urging people to keep their dogs under control, to clear up their mess and to be responsible in the countryside.”
NFU Mutual advice:
* Maintain social distancing of at least two metres when out in the countryside and consider others, including farmers and their families, when out
* Keep to footpaths, close gates and don’t block gateways parking your car
* Always keep dogs on the lead when walking them in rural areas where livestock are kept
* Be aware that even small lap dogs can attack and kill farm animals
* Report attacks by dogs and sightings of dogs roaming the countryside to local farmers or the police
* Don’t let dogs loose in gardens adjoining livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and attack sheep grazing nearby