Pregnant ewe dies following suspected dog attack in Burnley

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A farmer has urged people to keep their dogs on leads after a suspected dog attack claimed the life of one of his ewes and her unborn lamb at a popular walking area in Burnley.
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The badly injured sheep was spotted by a member of the public on moorland close to the Singing Ringing Tree at Crown Point and reported to the RSPCA.

After searching the area the ewe was located by one of the charity’s officers. She had a severely injured front right leg and what appeared to be teeth wounds on her right ear.

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The severely injured sheep was reported to the RSPCA who attended the scene with a vetThe severely injured sheep was reported to the RSPCA who attended the scene with a vet
The severely injured sheep was reported to the RSPCA who attended the scene with a vet

A vet was contacted and attended the scene immediately following the incident on Sunday, March 3. He agreed the ewe’s injuries appeared to be consistent with a dog attack and said they were so severe she needed to be put to sleep to prevent further suffering. Contact was made with the farmer, Jonathan Shorrock, who gave his consent and also confirmed she was carrying a lamb.

Mr Shorrock, whose family have farmed in the area for generations, said he typically loses between ten and 20 sheep every year to dog attacks. “I very rarely get contacted by an owner to say what’s happened, but in the vast majority of cases people just walk away and leave the sheep injured,” he said: “I think some people see them grazing in the field and believe their dog should be able to go free too, while others just don’t believe their dog will ever chase livestock. Dogs will very easily spook sheep and run off, causing the dog to give chase. A great deal of time and expertise is involved in breeding these sheep, but it’s a problem myself and other farmers have to face year in, year out.

“I’ve nothing against people walking their dogs, I just want them to be responsible and put them on a lead when they are near sheep. It will also help to protect ground-nesting birds, such as curlews, who are also on the moorland at this time of year.”

Simon Small, RSPCA Chief Inspector for Lancashire, said: “This is a problem faced by the farming community all too often and it’s totally avoidable if only owners kept their dogs on leads around livestock. The incident happened on a beautiful day and the area would have been busy with walkers and ramblers. Most people will have been responsible and done the right thing, but the message is still not getting through to some owners who continue to let their animals run free.”

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Dog owners are reminded that it is lawful for farmers to shoot a dog to protect livestock.

Consider your actions as a responsible dog owner

  • Always check for livestock in fields
  • Always make sure you shut gates behind you
  • When in fields with livestock, it is vital that your dog/s are kept on a lead and under control at all times
  • The only time you should release your dog is in the event of being chased by cattle.
  • If your dog chases, scares or attacks sheep, report it to the farmer, even if there is no apparent injury/
  • If you live near livestock and own a dog/s make sure that your property and garden are secure
  • If you are worried about your dog’s behaviour visit the RSPCA’s website to find a suitable behaviour expert.