Farmer urges dog walkers to stop sheep worrying

Rory Bell at Roxburgh Mill has had sheep attacked despite fences seperating the fields from footpaths
Rory Bell at Roxburgh Mill has had sheep attacked despite fences seperating the fields from footpaths

A Roxburgh farmer is urging dog walkers to prevent their pets from running free in farmers fields after he discovered a severely injured sheep.

Rory Bell from Roxburgh Mill Farm discovered a ewe last weekend which had deep lacerations to both ears, one eye and her nose.

Mr Bell strongly suspects the ewe sustained the injuries from a dog that was allowed to run off its lead and into his fields down by the River Teviot.

He said: “The farm is on the Teviot and Borders Abbeys Way and a lot of people come and walk their dog here.

“The fields are now fenced off so the dog would have had to go through it or over it to get into the field which is unnecessary.”

Mr Bell, who took over the farm from his father, was forced to put a barbed wire fence around the fields 15 years ago to stop the sheep being chased.

Despite this he has seen an increase in the amount of sheep that have sustained injuries.

“Over the past few years I have had three or four sheep seriously attacked, last year I had to put one down following a particularly violent attack,” explained Mr Bell.

He went on to say: “It’s not the dogs’ fault, they are descended from wolves and it is in their nature to chase and hunt. It is all about education, if they have been allowed into the fields and got a taste for it then they will do it again and again as if it’s a game.”

Mr Bell suggests that a solution to the problem would be better education and awareness to guidelines set out in The Countryside Code and The Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

The access code has clear regulations in regard to walking dogs near farm animals.

Mark Wrightham, policy and advice manager for Scottish Natural Heritage said: “Scotland’s outdoors is a great place for dogs and their owners, but it’s important to remember that you and your dog share the outdoors with others – and dogs that aren’t kept under proper control are a real concern for land managers.

“Whenever possible it’s best to avoid going near sheep. If you need to go into a field of sheep, keep your dog on a short lead or close at heel and keep your distance from them.

“Don’t take your dog into a field where there are lambs - go into a neighbouring field or onto land next to it.

“Never let your dog worry or attack livestock.”

Mr Bell is planning to put up pictures of the injured animals to prevent future attacks.

He said: “I think a lot of people think it’s a myth and these attacks don’t actually happen.

“I’m putting up these signs as a warning rather than threats about shooting aggressive animals.

“I would rather educate than have to do that, the carrot rather than the stick.”