No Surprises Living In Devizes: Sheep attack is no laughing matter

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Keep your dog on a lead in the countryside or you could be responsible for livestock deaths


FINDING nice surprises to ridicule in Devizes every week isn’t easy. Hardly the liveliest town, that’s why we like it. I could cover the library’s fantastic revamp… because Devizes is nice, the people are nice, yeah?

But every so often a story breaks without scope for a gag, but I feel compelled to mention it.

Usually reserved for lost cats and supermarket opening times, Poulshot farmer Nicole Pegg reached out to a local Facebook group when faced with a horrendous attack on her livestock almost certainly by a dog which was also mentioned by the local paper.

Dispersed around her field and suffering certain injuries indicating it wasn’t a fox, Nicole awoke on the 24th to find four dead sheep and her alpaca with serious injuries. Sadly, the alpaca died shortly after.

Likely scenario is the owner allowed their pet to spree – dogs love to chase as it’s part of their instinct.

Nicole has signs warning dogwalkers to the presence of livestock, even if she didn’t, common sense should prevail. How hard can it be to abide by the country code and keep your animal on a lead?

Researching online I was surprised similar events across the country are common, sheep being the prime target.

I found a forum where a concerned chap claimed his dog freed itself from the leash, failed to respond to its recall and killed a sheep. Could this be a similar terrible blunder? Makes me wonder, why’d you own a pet you cannot control, and can a dog escape a lead, do you call him Houdini?

You can buy shock collars, but the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors website states, “devices that rely on pain or discomfort to modify behaviour are inappropriate as they have the potential to seriously compromise the welfare of dogs.”

Big question then; if all else failed and this was a horrid mistake, why wouldn’t you take responsibility, apologise and offer to compensate? Afraid the dog will be put to sleep? Sorry, but maybe it’s for the best if you cannot control it.

But the most disturbing report I discovered was from the beginning of the month in County Down, where Ruairi McCartney discovered eight of his sheep stabbed to death.

“There is no rhyme or reason to it but somebody came out with the intention of hurting the animals.” He added there was “a similar attack a few weeks ago about a mile away.”

Here’s a game changer, can we be certain it wasn’t deliberate?  I’m not a dog owner; going in blindly with mouth hanging open, the mind boggles, failing to grasp what happened; what’s going on in the head of the dog’s owner while it savages someone’s animals, someone’s livelihood too?

Why would anyone allow their dog to attack livestock? An attempt to liven up the place, like a safari, call of the wild, repellent amusement? If that’s the case, you’re a sick and twisted individual.

Even if, for some malevolent reason, you had a personal vendetta against the farmer, how in the name of Little Bo Peep could a sheep possibly annoy you enough to consider taking its life?

I’m not tarnishing all dog owners with this blooded brush, aware the majority are responsible, but for crying out loud, all I wanted was to have a little fun with this column. I didn’t want to be Kate Adie, I don’t want to write sad local news.

Comments flew in, stating legally the farmer can shoot the dog, so if you don’t care about other animals, give compassion to your pooch. It’s correct, but not as simple as it sounds; they must be caught with their pants down.

The National Sheep website states you must consider that “dogs are counted as property, so shooting a dog could trigger a criminal damage charge,” and for a shooting to be legal, you’d have to prove you acted in the belief that your property (the sheep) were in immediate danger.

So, you can’t get all Dirty Harry and shoot the dog once it’s left the vicinity or is no longer a direct danger to your sheep, or you could be liable. Also, if you do not report the shooting to the police within 48 hours, none of the defences will be valid in civil proceedings.

One thing I’ve learned is that while the website refers to the animals as “property many smallholders don’t see their livestock as a “product” and have genuine feelings for the animals and care for their welfare; any pet owner should respect that.

Such a reprehensible story; my heart goes out to Nicole’s family and I pray it was a terrible mistake.

So, in the name of common sense, take heed of the country code, take responsibility over your pet and keep them on a lead when you’re crossing farmland with livestock. Shouldn’t be too difficult for the most stupid of us, surely?

DARREN WORROW

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