Dog owners urged to keep their dogs on leads in Cumbria’s countryside
Cumbria’s Deputy Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (DPFCC), Mike Johnson, Cumbria Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team and National Farmers Union (NFU) are working together to raise awareness around livestock worrying and theft in Cumbria.
Since the introduction of the Rural Crime Team in Cumbria on 19 September 2023, Cumbria Constabulary have received nine reports of dogs worrying livestock where the dog owner was present. Within these nine reports, there were five incidents resulting in the injury of the animal and four resulting in a livestock death. In the same period, seven livestock thefts have taken place across the county.
Recently, the Rural Crime Team have been dealing with incidents on sheep worrying in the Coniston area and at Burgh-by-Sands. To combat these issues, alongside the wider rural concerns, the Rural Crime Team have worked with the Neighbourhood teams and reached out to the public on social media and by installing signage in areas targeted. This message has also been shared by the Lake District National Park. Cumbria Police recognise that a lot of people out with dogs in the County are there as visitors.
Dog owners who are found by police allowing their dog to be off lead and worrying animals can face a fine up to £1000 and farmers are legally entitled to shoot dogs that are endangering their livestock.
There are some steps that farmers can take to reduce the likelihood of their livestock being stolen as well as increase the chance or return of livestock if they are stolen. These steps include:
- Making regular checks to fields to check on livestock and ensure perimeters are secure.
- In addition to ear tags, use branding or horn marking to make the livestock more identifiable.
- Secure gates and hinges to minimize access to fields and yards.
- Report suspicious behaviour to Police.
DPFCC Mike Johnson said: “Livestock is an incredible asset to farmers across Cumbria and the loss of animals can have a tremendous effect on their livelihoods.
“Farmers put a lot a care into ensuring that their livestock are healthy to keep their business viable and having these animals stolen from them or carelessly killed due to a thoughtless dog owner really can impact them financially and psychologically.
“Cumbria is a mainly rural county which is why we introduced a dedicated Rural Crime Team to help tackle rural crime which includes livestock theft and worrying. The specialist, highly trained group of officers will support officers across the force responding to rural crimes.
“In addition to the Rural Crime Team, there is further dedicated training taking place across the Constabulary to ensure that when you make initial contact to report a crime that you receive the appropriate response.
“I would urge any dog walkers to follow the countryside code and make sure that their dog is on a lead when in a field with livestock – we don’t want any animals to be put at risk unnecessarily.
“I would also urge all farmers to report anything suspicious to the Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. They know their land and area more than anyone and can spot suspicious activity much easier and can be the eyes and ears for the Police.
“Together we can make Cumbria a safer place to live, work and visit.”
Sergeant Amanda McKirdy, Cumbria Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team, said: “Our Rural Crime Team work closely with the NFU and our farming communities, so we know only too well the impact which livestock worrying and theft can have on the farming industry in Cumbria.
“We do not tolerate criminals targeting livestock and we will do everything we can to identify offenders and hold people accountable for their actions.
“To assist us in preventing livestock theft, we need information from our rural communities. If you see something suspicious, please report it to us via 101 or for advice email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can assess and investigate.
“Farming communities can also take steps to protect themselves by following the crime prevention advice we promote which includes ensuring gates and hinges to fields and yards are in place, and in good working order.
“Livestock worrying is also a serious matter. I’d urge dog owners to ensure they follow the countryside code and that their dogs are under control and on leads when in a field or around livestock.”
NFU County Adviser, James Airey said: “Highly organised gangs of criminals have continued to plague the British countryside, stealing expensive GPS equipment, livestock, high-value farm machinery, as well as trespassing on private land.
“It is good news that we have a dedicated Rural Crime team now in Cumbria to help combat these issues that cause disruption to important farm work, it places additional pressures financially and emotionally on farmers and their families. “
Find out more about the Rural Crime Team at Rural Crime Policing team launched in Cumbria – Cumbria Constabulary and keep up on their Facebook page – Cumbria Constabulary Rural Crime Team Facebook