A single dog is thought to have killed nearly 30 sheep in what Kent Police called “perhaps the worst livestock attack” officers have ever seen.
A total of 27 pregnant ewes, carrying twins and triplets, were found dead by a passerby at lunchtime on Boxing Day near the village of Teynham, outside Sittingbourne.
Other witnesses reported hearing barking near the area between 4-5pm on Christmas Day.
Photographs posted on social media showed a number of dead sheep, covered in mud and fringed in the corner of a fenced field. Police said many appear to have died in a crush to escape the dog or dogs.
While attacks on livestock may involve dogs biting sheep, it is common for sheep to die from crushing and suffocation or miscarriage from stress.
Kent Police said it was possible more than one dog was involved, but that they believed a single dog may have been behind the deaths. They are appealing for any information about the incident.
“The sheep would be petrified”
Pc Marc Pennicott, Kent Police Rural Task Force, said: ‘This is a distressing incident that is perhaps the worst livestock attack we have ever had. The sheep would have been petrified and would have had no way to escape.
“We believe they may have been attacked by a dog, but we cannot rule out that multiple dogs may have been responsible as well.
“The farmer not only suffered a financial loss as a result of this incident, but the animals lost their lives unnecessarily.”
Pc Pennicott said if the animal or animals involved were not identified, they could strike again.
“These dogs would have been covered in mud and come home exhausted and we are committed to identifying their owners.
“The targeted sheep were pregnant with twins or triplets and the rest of the livestock were also left vulnerable to further attack, so it is extremely important to find the perpetrator of these dogs as quickly as possible.”
They worry about tougher livestock laws
The National Farmers Union has campaigned for several years to tighten the troubling livestock law and introduce tougher penalties for owners.
The animal welfare bill has been in Parliament since May. It would increase the number of species covered by the livestock definition, give more investigative powers to the police and make it easier to seize dogs, as well as give the courts the ability to impose control, disqualification and destruction orders on livestock of concern.
According to Sheep Watch UK, which campaigns to reduce livestock of concern, as many as 15,000 sheep are killed by dogs each year. As many as 50% of attacks are thought to be carried out by dogs left alone in unprotected gardens or left to “walk by themselves” at night.