THE growing number of attacks by dogs on sheep in Saddleworth are causing alarm in the farming community.

The National Sheep Association has launched a special survey aimed at involving all UK sheep farmers to contribute to “this important piece of research” after reporting devastating number of attacks.

And they are already saying there appears to be a rising number of severe worrying attacks.

Saddleworth sheep farmer Darren Hough who has a spread on Wharmton, a distinguished local landmark overlooking several villages, has completed the survey.

He said: “The attacks only highlight the ignorance of a small minority of the public that won't take advice to keep the dogs on a lead. I lost 100 lambs in two months year as a result of people not obeying the countryside code and sticking to foot paths.

‘Consequently, the number of people coming at farm land from all sides means lambs lose contact with their mothers and die.

“I could spend most of my day telling people to put leads on. Some put them on when they see me coming and have the cheek to say their pet was on a lead already.

“My growing concern is volume of people out walking that don't know footpaths exist. I even had someone say Wharmton doesn't belong to anyone, it's just a hill that no one owns.... I despair.

“People trespassing with dogs off leads and children with them - what message does that pass on to children?

“Some folk want to do what they like, don't respect anyone's property, let their dog do whatever it likes and then lie and say it was was on a lead when it wasn't.

“I dread to think what the next generation will be like as adults, being brought up like that.”

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “For many years we have i trying to highlight the serious issue of sheep worrying attacks by dogs.

“The NSA involved in many discussions with rural police forces, animal welfare charities, the veterinary sector and of course Government as we have, alongside others, called for changes in legislation to protect sheep farmers and their stock.

“To facilitate this work NSA is appealing to all sheep farmers to supply the most up to date information and experiences they may have had with attacks on their flocks in this survey.”

The 2021 NSA survey includes many new elements seeking information on sheep farmers experiences and their thoughts on how the issue could be resolved. By completing the survey respondents are helping to ensure the best possible voice can be put forward supporting calls for legal and cultural changes.

NSA hears from many sheep farmers experiencing problems with dogs chasing and attacking sheep on a weekly basis with case numbers appearing to have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Stocker continued: “As one of the few leisure activities that the population has still been able to enjoy in the past year an increased number of walkers often accompanied by their pet dogs have been passing through farmland.

“Although thankfully the majority are responsible there is a small number that still allow their dogs to run through fields of livestock under little or no control, the resulting effect can be devastating, from extremely distressed sheep to severe injury and sadly, far too often death.”

In addition to sheep worrying cases reported there is also a high proportion of cases where straying dogs are responsible. To highlight this issue NSA will also encourage dog owners to be responsible and to ask themselves if they know where their dog is at all times as part of its ongoing campaign.

All survey data will be collected anonymously with the information gathered forming part of NSA’s 2021 Sheep Worrying by Dogs campaign which is scheduled to run throughout 2021 to promote responsible dog ownership.

The survey is open now and available to complete at