Campaign launched to prevent harm to livestock from dogs

Published Monday 20 March 2023

A campaign has been launched in the Harborough district to urge dog owners to help to keep livestock safe whilst out walking in the countryside this spring.

Dog walker on footpath in countryside. NFU image: credit Toby Lea photography
Dog walker on footpath in countryside. NFU image: credit Toby Lea photography

The campaign, organised by the Harborough District Community Safety Partnership, aims to raise awareness of the potential dangers to farm animals if dog owners do not follow their legal obligations to keep pets under control at all times.

One of the issues that the campaign will focus on is livestock worrying. This is the legal term for a dog being loose around farm animals, chasing them in a way which could cause injury or suffering, or attacking them. It is a criminal offence which carries a fine of up to £1,000.

Dog owners are legally responsible for keeping their pets under control at all times. Dog owners should keep their pets on a lead when walking near livestock and farmland to prevent animals being injured or killed. Under the law, a farmer has the right to shoot and kill a dog which is worrying livestock and cannot be controlled.

As well as livestock worrying, dog fouling on farmland can present dangers to farm animals and wildlife.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) provides the following guidance on the dangers of dog fouling:

  • Do not let your dog foul in fields and don’t leave poo bags on the ground/ tied to fences;
  • Dog owners MUST bag and bin their dog’s poo - it carries a parasite called Neospora which causes abortions in farm animals;
  • Bags left on the ground can be eaten by farm animals and cause them slow, painful deaths, or they can be bailed into silage and consumed that way.

NFU county adviser for Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, Harriet Ranson, said: “We welcome responsible dog walkers and remind everyone that the stunning Leicestershire countryside is also a working environment.

“The utter devastation caused by livestock worrying is hard to overestimate. It is the time of year when lambs are being born and a dog – no matter how small – chasing pregnant ewes around a field can lead to the deaths of not only the sheep but her unborn lamb too.

“We urge people to ensure their pets are under control at all times – a legal requirement, stick to public rights of way and to bag and bin their dog’s poo as this can cause illness and death among farm animals too. By respecting our rural areas and the people who live and work there, you are helping the countryside remain a place which everyone can enjoy.”

Cllr Whelband, Harborough District Council Cabinet Member and Chair of the Harborough Community Partnership, said: “Rural crime is a priority for the Community Safety Partnership and I’m pleased we are working together with our partners at the NFU and the police rural crime team to raise awareness of livestock worrying this spring. 

“We encourage the use of our beautiful countryside for exercise for both owners and their dogs, but it is essential that owners are responsible and always keep dogs on a lead in fields with livestock and stick to official footpaths and rights of way to keep farm animals safe.”

The campaign will include a local radio information advertisement and social media posts.

For information about the Harborough District Community Safety Partnership, including member organisations, visit: