A joint effort between Cheshire Police, the RSPCA, and the Naturewatch Foundation has launched a vital educational initiative, ‘Operation Recall,’ to address the growing concern of livestock worrying across the UK.

This collaboration is a significant step towards raising awareness about the impact of livestock worrying and working to prevent future incidents. Incidents of livestock worrying are on the rise, as indicated by research from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU). According to the RSPCA, these incidents can have a profoundly devastating impact. The NFU’s data reveals a staggering 50% increase in the cost of livestock worrying to farmers between 2019 and 2022, coinciding with the maturation of puppies purchased during the pandemic boom.

The Dangers of Livestock Worrying

Geoff Edmond, the national wildlife coordinator at the RSPCA, emphasised the importance of this initiative. He stated: “Accidents can happen, and even the most well-behaved dogs can become distracted and excited by grazing animals. The resulting stress and anxiety experienced by livestock can lead to pregnancy loss and, in extreme cases, severe attacks that result in injury or even death. This not only affects the animals but also takes an emotional toll on farmers, jeopardising their livelihoods.”

Moreover, the implications extend to the dogs involved: farmers seeking to protect their livestock can, by law, shoot them. Edmond added, “Owners could also be prosecuted if their dogs are caught worrying livestock. Partnering with Naturewatch and the police is crucial for educating the public, supporting rural communities, and preventing these tragic incidents.”

Educational and Awareness Efforts

The ‘Operation Recall’ initiative, which began in Cheshire, is set to expand nationally, with support from the newly established National Rural Crime Unit. As part of restorative justice, police forces are utilising an educational video following livestock worrying incidents. An awareness campaign, developed in collaboration with Naturewatch Foundation, aims to educate the public and prevent further livestock worrying.

PC Jim Clark of Cheshire Police stressed the significance of this partnership, saying, “Livestock worrying incidents have a ripple effect, affecting the livestock, the farmer, the offender, and the dog involved. Working in conjunction with organisations such as the RSPCA and Naturewatch Foundation brings unique expertise to the project.”

Kate Salmon, campaign manager at Naturewatch Foundation, said: “It’s crucial that dog walkers act responsibly to prevent these incidents, which can lead to tragic consequences for all animals involved.”

Advice for Dog Owners

The RSPCA’s primary advice to dog owners is to keep their dogs on a lead when in the vicinity of livestock, regardless of their dog’s temperament or the appearance of secure fencing. This simple measure can prevent potentially tragic incidents.

Hannah Doyle, a dog owner from Sussex, shared her experience. She said: “One day my dog went out with a new dog walker and for some reason they let him off the lead. He squeezed under a gate and started chasing some sheep. I was so relieved when the farmer reported that all the sheep were okay. The thought that an animal might have been hurt or killed – or my dog shot – was awful. I think it was a valuable lesson for both of us. Now I always keep him on a lead, even when livestock appear safely fenced in, just in case.”

For additional information on ‘Operation Recall,’ please visit Naturewatch’s dedicated page.