A plea has been made to dog-walkers after a sheep was attacked at a nature reserve in Annesley Woodhouse.
‘Obey the law and keep your dogs on a lead’ is the message from the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
The conservation grazing sheep was set upon by an out-of-control dog at Annesley Woodhouse Quarry in the latest of numerous, similar attacks in recent years.
The animal is expected to recover, although the Wildlife Trust’s shepherd had to take immediate action to treat the wounds and prevent any infection. However, many sheep in the past have not survived, even though dog-owners say their pets had never shown aggressive behaviour before.
The Wildlife Trust accepts that nature reserves are crossed by public rights of way, but it stresses that the law insists dogs must be kept under control.
“We need to balance the important place dogs have in people’s lives with the impact they have on wildlife,” said the Trust’s head of estates, Charles Langtree.
“Where possible, we try to accommodate visitors who wish to bring their dogs. But our first priority has to be the wildlife on site, including our conservation livestock.
“A dog is only truly under control if it is on a lead. Any dog off a lead outside the width of a right-of-way footpath is considered to be not under control.
“Best practice is to keep the dog on a lead. This helps to ensure they are not able to leave faeces without the owner noticing or disrupt birds and other wildlife, which could be an offence under the Wildlife And Countryside Act, particularly at this time of year when ground-nesting birds are present on so many sites.
”Often the dogs that cause harm haven’t previously done so, and the owners are shocked and upset.”
Dog-walkers can be fined up to £20,000 or sent to prison for up to six months if found guilty of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control. The pet might even be destroyed, while the owners might not be allowed to keep a dog in the future. UK law still allows for out-of-control dogs to be shot for worrying livestock.
Added Mr Langtree: “We want people to engage with the natural world, but this can’t happen at the expense of wildlife or at the risk of our sheep. There are clear signs at our nature reserves. Please follow them.”