Farmer’s plea to put dogs on lead after owner cautioned over sheep attack

Posted On 22 Oct 2021 at 9:34 am

A dog walker has been cautioned by police after her pet attacked a sheep on farmland near Stanmer Park.

The farmer, Peter Carnaghan, said this was just the worst of several similar incidents in the past two weeks.

He says there are no easy answers to stop sheep worrying, which increased during lockdown.

But he stressed dog walkers need to keep their animals on leads when in fields with livestock – because even the cutest pooch has an innate desire to chase sheep.

Mr Carnaghan, who farms near Stanmer Park, said: “I don’t know if it’s getting worse or if it’s just coincidence

“The worst one, I got a phonecall two Sundays ago. There was a dog attack in progress but it was the other end of our farm.

“By the time I got there a witness had seen it happen and left his number and the number the witness got off the dog’s tag. The people with the dog had gone.

“Since then they have been very remorseful. She cooperated with the police. In an ideal world, the dog would have been put down but she was cautioned because she admitted it and has been sent on a dog training course.”

He said although farmers are allowed to shoot any dog that’s worrying sheep, they rarely see it happening and only find out when they come across an injured animal.

He said his landlord – Brighton and Hove City Council – has been very good at tackling the problem and putting signs up.

But opening up its grasslands to walkers means dogs must be kept on leads.

He said: “Any dog has the instinct in it. Smaller dogs aren’t going to be able to do anything, but they can still scare the sheep, which is a problem during lambing season.

“Even nice breeds, if they do manage to catch a sheep then they can do some damage.

“People always say to me that is a knowledge thing, people need education.

“But I think it’s an attitude thing. People think I want to take my dog out there. People know that any dog is capable of chasing sheep, they just don’t think that their fluffy little dog which curls up with them on the sofa will do it.

“But as soon as sheep run away, the dog has got a game and it escalates from there.”

He also said the farmland around Stanmer Park was lined with fencing designed to keep sheep in – but which wasn’t as effective at keeping dogs out.

He said: “I don’t begrudge anyone walking their dog, but they should be able to do it responsibly and have a good enough recall.

“On Saturday, I saw two beagles being walked and as soon as they got into my field, they let the dogs off the lead. I shouted to them please put your dogs on a lead and I had an argument because they refused to do it. He said I know these dogs won’t chase sheep so I won’t put them on a lead.

“If someone goes out into a field and sees two dogs off their leads, they think why should my dog be on one.

“You can’t have one rule for one dog and another for others.”

  1. nick Reply

    Stanmer Park used to be grazed by cows but over the past few years there have been sheep too. In such a popular walking and cycling area, this isn’t really a good idea as there are many fields nearby which don’t have such a high level of public access and use

    Yes, dogs should be under control. But the world isn’t perfect and the farmer seems to be risking the welfare of their sheep when there are other better alternatives nearby. The farmer also seems to have a poor understanding of the law, believing that all dogs must be on lead. No, they should be under control and have a legal right to be off lead on public footpaths. Saying this, I always have my dogs on lead near sheep for the reason he gives of setting an example to others. But trying to enforce a law that doesn’t exist will just stress out the farmer.

    My advice to the farmer. Ensure signs are good – the council signs are terrible and tiny (just over the size of a business card). I spoke to someone who was unaware of the sheep and said “is that what the sign says, I don’t have my reading glasses with me”. The council signs also stay up all the time, so most of the time they are ignored as the fields are empty of livestock!

    Recently there have been some larger handwritten A4 signs, that is what is needed

    Also, I do question the move from cows to sheep in such a busy area. Even without dogs, sheep can be upset by cyclists, drones etc which also use this busy space. So wonder if their welfare is best helped by being elsewhere….

    • Some Guy Reply

      All sounds incredibly entitled. Put your dog on a lead unless you own the land you’re standing on: problem solved.

      • nick Reply

        Yes, we are allowed to walk on public footpaths and have dogs off lead. That’s the law.

        Very few people can afford to have acres of land which they own themselves – so I’m not sure how your suggestion works for anyone but the landed gentry! If we are to obey the animal welfare laws and allow dogs natural behaviour then we have to walk on public footpaths, parks etc. Yes, this needs to be done under control. Remember this is publically owned land with footpaths across it. You now also have to pay to park there (and so, effectively, pay to visit it)

        Perhaps more entitled is the farmer who believes that a dog should be killed after the event. He finds it a pity that the dog hasn’t been put down. That’s worrying as you have to question if he really does care for animals. Yes, the dog shouldn’t be allowed to worry sheep again, but that can be done by management, training and the owner behaving differently. Killing the dog doesn’t seem fair (different situation during an attack to save sheep lives, but afterwards seems vindictive)

        • JD Reply

          Nick, this is public access land that grazes farmstock. Rules are, all dogs are to be kept on a lead at all times. The Council opened it up for people to walk on for leisure with dogs on a lead as it is primarily grazing land. There is no footpath running through it, and even if there was no bikes are allowed. Bikes are only allowed on bridleways, not footpaths or public access land. I suggest that you source your facts before getting so self righteous. It is illegal for any dog to be off the lead whilst around livestock.

    • Peter Reply

      Nick, I would be more than happy to discuss with you why the alternative option s are not options. The mixed grazing of sheep and cattle on the downs is crucial for the control of ragwort, a poisonous weed to cattle and horses, and to offer better biodiversity, not to mention other benefits, resulting in less chemical s being used etc etc. As well as this, that is still part of a farm, which although owed by Brighton is rented out. Not only this, the sheep that is pictured in this article is actually not in stanmer but one of two sheep attacked about half a mile away. The sheep that was attacked and referenced in the article had to be shot straight away.

      • nick Reply

        Peter, that’s interesting. But if we’re saying that the only option is sheep then there needs to be a way found to keep them safe in such a busy leisure area. Perhaps with fencing which routes walkers, cyclists and others away from sheep and can be changed and flexible as they move areas. Not easy, and costly I imagine but the council is now gaining parking revenue which should pay for this

        In my view 99.9% of walkers, cyclists, drone flyers, dog owners etc are responsible. But in such a busy area with thousands of visitors each week, then even a tiny fraction of irresponsible people will cause issues. If there really are no other options but to have sheep included in the mix here – then they need to be protected. And that will need more thought and investment than a few signs in such a busy area. If not, then we’ll just have to accept sheep deaths each year which I don’t think anyone wants….

    • Robert Reply

      Nick, you say “No, they should be under control and have a legal right to be off lead on public footpaths.” and “Yes, we are allowed to walk on public footpaths and have dogs off lead. That’s the law.”

      Actually, the Dangerous Dogs Act means dogs must *always* be under control in any public place, not “should”.

      If you are not controlling your dog and it is harmful, even in the case of causing a person to be anxious, then you can be prosecuted and the dangerous dogs act. If you think a dog has to bite before you can be prosecuted, then you are mistaken.

      If the dog is worrying and causing harm to sheep, then it is out of control.

      Here is what the RSPCA says about the dangerous dogs act:
      “Under the Act, it’s illegal for a dog to be ‘out of control’ or to bite or attack someone. The legislation also makes it an offence if a person is worried or afraid (the term is ‘reasonable apprehension’) that a dog may bite them. So it’s important to ensure that your dog is kept under control at all times and in all places.”

      If you can’t control your dog off a lead, keep it on a lead at *all* times. That is the law.

      • Nick Reply


        We are in agreement I think. Should means “used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness” so yes, you have an obligation and a duty to ensure that your dog is under control. The definition of must is “be obliged to; should” – so I think we really are saying the same thing!

        There are a lot of inexperienced dog owners at the moment and untrained/partly trained and nervous dogs. A lot of this has been caused by lockdowns. We do need to give them some understanding, but around livestock, there really is no justification for being off lead in signposted areas

  2. Jane Reply

    This story is partially inaccurate. The dog owner actually voluntarily left their number and removed their dog from the scene to avoid further distress to the animal and others around, in the understanding that the farmer would call later. This person is not an irresponsible dog owner, and mostly walks using a lead, especially when there is livestock about. But this was one of those horrible and distressing accidents.

    I agree with the earlier comment about signs. Where I walk my dog there are signs up indicating there are sheep in certain places, even though they have been moved off months ago. Dog walkers do need places to fully exercise their dogs, and we rely on such signs being accurate so we can do so. I know many on my local route who keep their dogs off lead, knowing there are no longer sheep in the fields. The signs should be taken down and put up again when sheep are back, otherwise complacency will set in and accidents will happen.

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