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Six sheep were killed when they were forced into the water by a dog on the Earth Trust Farm in Little Wittenham, and now the charity is urging owners to keep their dogs on a lead around livestock.

On Friday morning several animals were pulled from the River Thames after being chased in by a loose dog. Five had already drowned and a sixth succumbed to shock and water inhalation overnight. Church Meadow, at the foot of the Wittenham Clumps, is currently being grazed by around 200 sheep and 25 cows, and owners are urged to keep their dogs on leads when passing through this field.

ďItís very distressing to see animals killed in this way, especially when the accident was completely avoidable. There are signs at every entrance to the meadow asking dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead whilst sheep are in this field. This is the second time in a week that sheep have been pulled from the river after being chased by dogs and, sadly, this time there were tragic consequences,Ē said Chris Parker, Farm Manager at the Earth Trust.

The flock is owned by shepherd Emma Blomfield, one of the Trustís Farm Step tenants. She has only recently relocated her business to the Earth Trust Farm and was shocked to receive the phone call reporting the incident.

ďIím absolutely gutted. The sheep have been so happy grazing in Church Meadow over the last week Ė Iíve often found them hiding in the bushes and exploring the scrub. Iím devastated to have lost so many animals in one day,Ē said Emma.

Sheep are naturally flighty animals and are easily spooked by dogs Ė this is not a problem when the dog is on a lead, as the sheep will stop running when they realise theyíre not being chased. However, if the dog is off the lead then itís another matter.

Emma continued: ďItís not the dogís fault. I like dogs. But owners need to be more vigilant when walking through livestock as situations with even the most well-behaved dog can escalate quickly. Please, please keep your dog on a lead around sheep and other animals.Ē

The rest of the flock will remain on Church Meadow for a short while longer and during this time dog walkers are asked to respect the request. The sheep are moved around the farm to graze on different wildflower meadows throughout the year, providing vital habitat management along with a viable lamb business. The flock are Emmaís livelihood and, as well as being extremely distressing, the incident has cost her upwards of £500.

Chris explained: ďGrazing is a critical part of the management for the meadow, as it helps to keep it in the best condition for wildflowers to flourish, so itís important we graze these meadows with sheep. The sheep canít just be relocated to another field with no public access. Itís only for a short period of the year that we need to graze this field and for this time we simply ask that dogs to be kept on a lead when people are walking here. There are plenty of opportunities to allow your dog off the lead on other parts of the farm.Ē << Go Back
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