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'Some were drowned, some were lying dead in the field' - Farmer relives horror of dog attack which killed 33 sheep

PUBLISHED: 07:03 29 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:57 29 June 2019

33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Picture: Julie Dacre

33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Picture: Julie Dacre

Julie Dacre

A Norfolk farmer has described the aftermath of a frenzied attack on her flock by two blood-thirsty mastiffs, whose all-night killing spree left 33 of her sheep dead or dying.

33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Pictured: The two dogs before they were chased off the field. Picture: Julie Dacre33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Pictured: The two dogs before they were chased off the field. Picture: Julie Dacre

Julie Dacre, of Ash Tree Farm in Attlebridge, chased the snarling dogs off her field in her farm buggy after spotting them terrorising a lamb in a dyke at the beginning of a traumatic day on October 26.

The dogs were later destroyed and their owner, 36-year-old Howie Miller, of Oast House Barn in Alderford, pleaded guilty to being the owner of a dog worrying livestock and was ordered by Norwich magistrates to pay a fine of £400 and compensation of £600.

Mrs Dacre described the penalty as an "insult to the farming community", falling far short of her estimated £4,543 cost for veterinary bills, disposal costs and replacement animals.

But she said it also did not reflect the emotional cost of the sickening scene the dogs left behind.

33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Picture: Julie Dacre33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Picture: Julie Dacre

According to veterinary reports, bodies had been left with broken limbs and bite wounds to their face and neck, while others had drowned in the field dykes.

Some were still alive, but were too badly wounded to survive or traumatised and unable to breathe after inhaling water. They were shot by armed police officers or put down by vets who were all called to help at the scene.

Mrs Dacre said: "The whole day was surreal. You hear the guns shooting and the vets working away and then you get asked questions about if you have got someone you can call to dispose of all the dead.

"My friend came down to help and she just burst into tears. No-one had seen anything like it.

33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Pictured: Police had to shoot some of the animals which were too badly injured to survive. Picture: Julie Dacre33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Pictured: Police had to shoot some of the animals which were too badly injured to survive. Picture: Julie Dacre

"I was in a daze. I have helped some of these animals into the world, because I do all my own lambing. A couple were bottle-fed and these animals have been looked after and cared for every day of their lives. So to have something like this happen... it is not the value of them, it is their welfare. They have suffered. It is hard to describe."

Mrs Dacre said when she initially called the police control room, the dogs were still attacking her sheep and she felt "helpless".

"I had a quick look around the field and I thought: 'What on earth has happened?'" she said.

"There were several you could see in the water, but their fleeces were so heavy I couldn't get them out. Some were floating having drowned, some were just lying dead in the field."

33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Picture: Julie Dacre33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Picture: Julie Dacre

In all 33 sheep were lost, and of the 31 left only 20 were uninjured and able to remain in the field.

But Mrs Dacre said she hopes to use her experience to raise awareness of the need for dog walkers to keep their pets on a lead around livestock, particularly during the lambing season.

"What happened here is a one-off," she said. "But usually these things happen because people have their dogs off the lead and they think they have got it under control, but they have not.

"Some dog owners do not recognise that a dog is an animal with a basic instinct and no matter how much they are called, they are not going to come off something they are chasing.

33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Picture: Julie Dacre33 sheep were left dead or dying after a prolonged attack by two mastiffs in a farm field near Attlebridge. Picture: Julie Dacre

"I know the Countryside Code suggests dogs should be kept on a lead around livestock, but there should be no grey area at all. It should be the law.

"In this incident, everybody has suffered. The dog owner, the dogs in question, the sheep and me as a farmer. The owner didn't intend this, and the dogs didn't have to be put down. Everyone has suffered because of one irresponsible owner."

After hearing the magistrates' decision, Mrs Dacre said: "It is absolutely awful. I thought I would at least get my expenses back. If I had gone and slaughtered all his puppies, he wouldn't have been happy with getting £600 back.

"I just cannot understand the legal system being so lenient. It is an insult to the farming community."

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