A farmer whose son’s pregnant sheep were mauled in a vicious dog attack has urged owners to keep their pets on leads in the countryside.
Caroline Harriott was horrified to find out on Saturday that three of her 55-strong flock at Cissbury Ring suffered deep puncture wounds consistent with bites to their heads and necks.
One also suffered leg injuries while another’s throat had been ripped open.
Two of the rare Beltex breed ewes were her 16-year-old son Alfie’s first sheep and were due to give birth in March – but it is unclear if the trauma will affect the pregancies. She said: “It was horrendous to find them in this state.
“It sounds a bit sad, but we are so used to it now. It was more upsetting for my son; he had never witnessed anything like this.”
Her husband David rushed to Cissbury Ring after they were discovered at 10am. The three sheep were ‘frozen in fear’ in the corner of the field, with ‘a lot of wool and blood on the fence’ which they had been pushed against.
The superficially injured ewe was left in the field, and David drove the others to their home, Broomhurst Lodge in Lyminster Road, Lyminster, where they have received veterinary care.
The family reported the incident to police, and believe it happened between 8am and 10am. Alfie has put up posters around Findon asking witnesses to come forward.
The couple raise cattle and sheep at Lychpole Farm in Sompting, with the help of their 15-year-old daughter Gemma.
Caroline is also the deputy chairman of West Sussex National Farmers’ Union, and will be launching a campaign called Take the Lead to get dog owners to keep their pets on leashes when on country walks.
She said: “At first the dog will think it is a bit of fun, but unfortunately when they get a taste for it their killer instinct comes out and they will do it again.
“If the person responsible doesn’t come forward we can’t educate them and their dog or dogs could likely strike again.”
Caroline’s warning comes as the lambing season begins, with ewes just weeks or days away from giving birth.
According to the NFU, thousands of sheep and cattle die as a result of injuries caused by dogs every year and livestock worrying costs the industry at least £1.4m per year.
NFU South East spokesman Isobel Bretherton said: “Dog attacks on livestock should be avoided at all costs. They can end in tragedy both for the farmer and for the dog owner.”
If you witnessed the incident, call police on 101.