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Anger as dogs 'chase lambs to death' at Shropshire farm

By Thomas Morton | Clun | Farming | Published: | Last Updated:

A Shropshire farming couple are calling for dog owners to keep their animals under control after two lambs died when they were "chased to exhaustion" by dogs.

A Soay lamb

Catherine and Robert Humphreys, who have farmed in south Shropshire for more than two decades, say the problem of dog worrying is getting worse as owners appear to be less aware of the country code and less responsible in controlling their pets.

The issue has come to a head for them after they lost two lambs who appear to have been chased around a field for a long period of time, one of which was also bitten by a dog.

Both died that night, and adult ewes are also showing signs of severe stress, suggesting they were also chased. Ewes can shed their fleece, and also miscarry lambs they are carrying, if put under stress by dogs.

Mrs Humphries who, with her husband, runs the farm between between Chapel Lawn and New Invention, south of Clun, said the lambs were "run to death" by at least one of three dogs belonging to a group of walkers "supposedly following a footpath through farm land."

She said she did not see the group responsible herself but had spoken to witnesses around at the time.

Mrs Humphries said: "It seems that the walkers were in a guided group, with three dogs, all off leads.

"Before they entered the field they had walked along a separate path beside it, so should have seen the new lambs with their ewes. The walkers reportedly returned in high spirits to their cars, although one was sufficiently concerned to ask a local person who owned the sheep.

"I later heard the ewes calling and found the dead lambs. Both the bereaved ewes were distraught. The breed are devoted mothers."

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Mrs Humphries said the flock was made up of rare breed Soay sheep.

"These are an ancient ancestral breed which is ‘at risk’ of extinction. They are very hardy, so a dog would be likely to have been out of control for some time chasing the lambs before they collapsed," she said.

She said there were increasing numbers of walkers who did not keep their dogs on leads and gates were sometimes left open too.

"Of course using a public footpath is a right but with a right goes responsibility. Straying from the footpath is not a right, however.

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"Guides have a clear duty to educate their groups in appropriate behaviour in the countryside. Unfortunately this did not happen in this case.

"If such visits do not help to develop appreciation of and respect for other creatures they are not fulfilling a key purpose. It's a sad story from which it is hoped others might learn," she said.

Mrs Humphries said the incident had been reported to the police. Anyone with more information is asked to all 101. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or at crimestoppers-uk.org

Thomas Morton

By Thomas Morton
@tmorton_star

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star

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