Farmer Warns He Will Shoot To Kill After Another Dog Chases Sheep

By Derek Davis

7th May 2021 | Local News

A peninsula farmer has warned he will shoot any dog he finds worrying his sheep.

Phil Colwill issued the stark message after many of his 36 pregnant ewes were left distressed by a dog, which had been let of its lead and chased sheep in a Shotley meadow.

Mr Colwill and his partner Sandra Hawkins, found their frightened flock after it had forced through an electric fence to get away from the animal. Some of the sheep had scratches and were left scared and distressed.

Mr Colwill insisted he did not want to have to take such a drastic measure but he could not allow the harm being down to his ewes to continue as the stress could lead them to aborting their lambs and warned: "I don't want to shoot a dog, but if this happens again and I see the dog - I will."

Mrs Hawkins described what happened: "This latest attack left our girls petrified. They clearly bunched together and just ran straight through the fence.

"They would not even let us get near them, which is really unusual. We eventually did manage to bring them in and noticed two in particular were producing a gooey fluid which means they could be about the lamb prematurely and puts them at a high risk of infection.

"It was touch and go for 24 hours and we could have lost them."

The consequences of dogs worrying sheep are horrific and Mr Colwill had a message for the dog owner involved last weekend.

"I will say the owner of the dog that got loose," said Mr Colwill. "If you want to come with me and help pick up the dead lambs caused by your dog, then are most welcome to do so, because that is a sickening job."

The latest attack is one of numerous incidents and there have been times when dogs have been fortunate to survive.

Mrs Hawkins said: "We have had something similar in the past. We came out to see two dogs chasing the sheep and we knew who the owner was. On that occasion, we called the police and the officer gave us the option of having the dogs destroyed, but we didn't as it was not the dogs' fault - it was the owner and the policeman spoke to him and warned him."

Mr Colwill added: "We accepted that but I told the officer, next time I will shoot any dog. I don't want to but I will. I know it will upset me as much as anyone but they are not going to mess my girls about, especially as this stage of the lambing season."

The couple recalled another episode a while back when the same dog was on the loose.

Mr Colwill said: "We found out a dog had got away from its owner again, and he had already been warned, this time I got my gun out and waited for it. We saw it running past the other side of the hedge and it went away. But if it had even put its nose into the meadow where the sheep were, I would have shot it – no doubt.

"The thing with dogs is once they go for a sheep once, they will come back and do it again. Even if my own dogs went for a sheep even once, I would shoot it, because it will do it again."

The couple have been left distraught when their sheep are attacked, and lost ewes due to dogs.

Mrs Hawkins said: "In the past we had a dog on the loose down by the marshes where they were grazing and it spooked them so much one of them ran into a ditch and drowned.

"In another incident left one sheep with cut near an eye, which she could have lost, others had scratch marks on their haunches, and we have not seen how deep the dame done until they have been sheared and you see the amount of scarring."

When sheep are spooked there is a danger that the lambs will turn around inside the sheep and get stuck and makes a normal delivery very difficult, which can mean long nights trying to get them out.

Despite the set backs, the couple have bred thousands of sheep and have had a number of champions in their flocks, including Best in Suffolk Show twice.

Mr Colwill said: "This is not a commercial enterprise, this is our hobby. I may be taking it too far to say they are our pets but they are as close as you can get."

"It is a very small minority of people who let their dogs loose, the vast majority are really good and understand and agree with us it is disgraceful when people let their dogs off the lead, especially so close to sheep and in lambing season.

"What we would also say is if your dog does get loose and we are not about please get in touch, either direct or through some else to let us know and we can make sure the sheep are alright a lot quicker. It is just common courtesy."

A public right of way runs through the middle of Rose Farm with sheep often in meadows either side, but it is a narrow restricted track and people are not supposed to stray onto the fields, or let their dogs run free.

Mrs Hawkins added: "It doesn't help when people don't realise even though there is a public footpath the dogs should be on the lead close to them.

"We have asked people to put their dogs on a lead and all we get is abuse, they seem to think just because they are in the countryside their dogs can run free – they can't. This is private land and the farm is our living."

Press the red button below to see what it feels like for a child to have its dog shot by a farmer. Or go to the opinion page.

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