Dog owners visiting or living in the Forest of Dean are encouraged to keep their pets on leashes to curb the increase in attacks on wild sheep.
Sheep farming through public land is a forest tradition that is over 800 years old.
However, members of the Sheep Liaison Group are concerned about the rise in dog ownership during lockdown and how poorly trained dogs can devastate livestock and wildlife if not kept under control.
The liaison group consists of representatives from the Commoners’ Association, Forestry England, Forest District Council, Gloucestershire County Council and the police force.
According to citizens, around 20 sheep have been killed in the forest by dog ââattacks and traffic accidents in the past few months.
And Clare Greaves, Chair of the Liaison Group, wants to educate the public about the dangers untrained dogs pose to farm animals and other animals.
“People need to understand that they have a well-trained dog and understand the risks and responsibilities if they want the privilege of unleashing their dog,” she said.
âThere are times of the year when it is irresponsible for a dog owner to let their pet off the leash.
âA responsible dog owner who follows the rules reduces the chances of a problem occurring.
âWe want to educate people about their duties and responsibilities in relation to dog ownership.
âIt is a disaster if your dog is not insured, trained, microchipped and something happens.
âBefore anyone unleashes their dog in the forest, they must remember that sheep are sweet and gentle animals that are very vulnerable in late pregnancy and lambing time.
âBefore letting go of their dogs, people need to be absolutely sure that their dog is trained well enough to handle farm animals.
âEven if the dog does not draw blood. Hunting the sheep is enough to induce an abortion.
âThe consequences are terrifying.
“We want to remind people who bought a puppy during the pandemic and were unable to take puppy training classes that training is available.”
She said people who don’t know where or how to train their dogs should contact the Association of Pet Dog Trainers to find a trainer.
âThis way you can do your duty to give your dog adequate training.
“Well, proper training when you live in the West End of London is very different from proper training when you take your dog into the Forest of Dean.
“The Forest of Dean bylaws also state that no one should allow a dog to disturb, worry, or hunt an animal.”
Commoners’ Association general secretary Mick Holder said he wanted Forestry England to do more to enforce these statutes.
“That would eliminate a bucket full of our problems and also minimize suffering,” he said.
And County Councilor Terry Hale (Con, Drybrook and Lydbrook), who is also a member of the liaison group, believes that all dog handlers should keep their pets on a leash in the woods.
“It has to come. I would like to see people have a driver’s license and insurance for their dogs.”
Anyone who sees a sheep attacked or killed in the Forest of Dean should call Mr. Holder on 01594 827485.
Forestry England has been asked to comment but has not received one at the time of going to press.
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