Eight sheep were killed in a dog attack in Maresfield over the weekend. Six more were injured and it looks as if two of those are unlikely to survive. A further six sheep are still missing.
Farmers Stephen and Belinda Burton said they were devastated by the attack which had decimated their flock. A ram was put in with the ewes a fortnight ago and so they were likely to have been pregnant. The ram was killed along with the ewes.
He saw one with a gash on its neck and thought at first it had suffered fly strike, went to look for the others, found one dead ewe in the river and two lambs on the other side. He went along the river and found more each with neck wounds.
Eventually he recovered eight dead sheep, and six more alive, all traumatised and two of them unlikely to survive. He suspects the missing sheep are injured and hidden in bracken waiting to die.
“Sheep don’t like water. The only reason they would have gone into the river was because there was nowhere else for them to go. Once in their fleeces fill with water and they become too heavy to get out,” said Belinda.
The couple said the owner of the dog, or dogs, involved in the attack, which must have been big animals, would have known something was wrong when they returned to them because they would have been covered in blood.
They said any dog involved would remain a danger to sheep.
“We can’t understand why owners don’t follow the countryside code and keep their dogs on a lead when crossing our land. They may think a field is empty but the sheep could just be lying down in the shade.
“We put signs on gate posts asking people to put their animals on the lead but they are pulled off. Once we asked an owner to put their dog on a lead and he refused saying “I know my dog”. People just have no respect for other people’s land and livelihood,” said Stephen.
The Burtons breed pedigree sheep for breeding stock. Those they lost were Texels which are big animals.
In a separate incident yesterday they found one of their Suffolk sheep in a different field with an injured leg. They suspect that was attacked by a terrier.
The police are appealing for anyone who saw anything suspicious over the weekend to email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 101, quoting serial 1051 of 09/12.
Sussex Police wildlife officer Sgt Tom Carter said: “We urge people to keep their dogs on a lead while they are walking in rural areas and around livestock.
“So often in these incidents the owners are horrified by what their dogs have done, but they have to accept that even the most docile of pets can quickly turn into a killer given the opportunity.
“A farm can legally shoot a dog that is chasing livestock and seek compensation from the person responsible for the animal, so please don’t take the risk.”
Find local businesses in our Uckfield Directory