Sunday, 31 May 2020

Farmer angry at death of sheep in dog attack

Farmer angry at death of sheep in dog attack

A FARMER says she is heartbroken after five of her sheep were killed in a dog attack.

Tracy Betteridge, who keeps about 280 lambing ewes on farmland off the A4155 in Medmenham, found the dead animals early on Saturday.

This was third attack on her livestock in the past year. Two of the three ewes that were killed were pregnant and she also lost two lambs. Three other lambs were injured but should survive.

Miss Betteridge, known as “Bill”, said: “I just stood in the field and sobbed. It is not just my livelihood — I care for these creatures.

“I spend a lot of hours on their welfare and it absolutely breaks my heart. It is so sad in this day and age that people can’t follow these basic rules.

“When I come along in the morning, I’m singing a merry tune expecting to pick up nice little lambs and instead I start my day by having to pick up dead bodies because other people can’t function as normal human beings.

“When I went to pick the bodies up they were still warm, so it had not been that long since the attack happened. The other ewes were very upset.

“I know it is a dog attack because there were puncture wounds down the lambs’ necks. One ewe had its face ripped apart where it had tried to defend her offspring.”

Miss Betteridge, who lives in Nuffield and has been a tenant of the farm for eight years, says the problem of dog attacks has been exacerbated by more visitors walking in the countryside during the coronavirus pandemic to avoid meeting other people.

“People are being irresponsible,” she said. “There is an awful lot more footfall in the countryside and we are taking the brunt of their boredom and they think it is a free-for-all.

“I can’t stand walkers now. I don’t want to know anybody who is out in public not controlling their dogs.”

She has been forced to move the rest of the animals into another field because it is considered safer, although it has less grass in it.

Miss Betteridge said: “Everybody is entitled to walk somewhere but they are not supposed to be driving somewhere so that they can go for a walk.

“We have people coming out into the countryside because they want to avoid other people.

“They have actually said to me and the landlord they are safer here and don’t want to bump into other members of the public, so they are contaminating our farm instead. They even avoid using the footpath.

“This is private property and they are not welcome — but they don’t listen. They think you are stupid and they do whatever they like.

“This sort of incident is inevitable if people are not going to listen.”

Miss Betteridge, who sells meat through her business, Chiltern Lamb, said the attack would cost her about £1,000.

She said: “I have to pay for the dead sheep to be taken away as well as what they cost. They would have gone on to be breeding stock or to be meat. One ewe had already lambed and had two lambs with her.”

Miss Betteridge said there had been five or six dog attacks in as many years. These included an incident in 2013 in which a rare breed ewe was killed.

She said a dog owner had a Rottweiler put down to avoid criminal proceedings after it attacked her flock about two years ago.

She has previously put up signs to discourage people from walking on the land and to keep their dogs under control. However, these have either been vandalised or torn down.

Miss Betteridge said: “People have also been littering and dropping cans, plastic bottles and crisp packets. We also had one of our deer fences broken down the other day. Somebody had actually kicked the gate in and broken the lock just so they could walk in a field. If I catch a dog in the process of doing this I will keep it until the police arrive so the owner can be prosecuted.”

Miss Betteridge said she had spoken with Thames Valley Police who said they would increase patrols in the area. The landowner is considering putting in deer fencing around the entire field to stop people from entering.

Owners can be fined up to £1,000 for letting dogs “worry” livestock.

If you have any information about this incident, call the police non-emergency number, 101, quoting reference number 43200100770.

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