You see, I was walking to work when I got a text from the client I'd seen on Monday - her sheep had been worried by a dog in the night and she needed help to deal with the carnage. I informed work, grabbed the car, my shearing kit, a needle and some dental floss, and headed out there not really knowing what to expect. When I arrived, the sheep were in the yard - five of the lambs I'd shorn and crutched. Two were untouched, the other three in varying states of injury.
Warning - graphic pics below.
In a classic example of Kiwi understatement, when a dog 'worries' sheep it's not just making them a bit concerned, it's attacking them. I don't know where the saying comes from, but I grew up with it and I'm often surprised that not everyone knows this. So I got a funny look or two when I said I needed to go deal with some worried sheep. *ahem*
BTW, I make no apology for posting gory pictures here - people need to see this kind of thing because I find it drives home the message of how much damage an unsupervised dog can do to livestock far better than any admonishment. Your dog could do this too given the opportunity.
So, what does a worried sheep look like?
The first one was the one that had been shorn on Monday. She actually looked ok apart from the one large-ish wound on her left hip:
However, on cleaning it up and cutting wool away, we discovered a number of other small wounds lower down:
So we cleaned it up as best we could and called it good. I don't think this sheep is in any danger, apart from the fact that it's flystrike season and dog bites tend to get infected. However, the vet was going to be coming out later and could administer antibiotics and other treatments - and hopefully some flypel.
The next sheep had a lot of blood in one flank, but we couldn't see the wound causing it because of her wool. The fear with wounds in this area is that they might have penetrated into the gut cavity.
However, nothing was showing and cleaning it up revealed mostly superficial wounds:
She had five like this in the flank area. The one in the centre of this pic was right in the flank and quite deep - it looked as though the dog had grabbed and punctured the skin with its canines, then gone for a better grip but she'd pulled away and managed to escape, tearing the skin but otherwise undamaged. The flank wound might need a stitch or two and a drain put in, but again, lucky sheep.
The third one had been sitting down and didn't move when I got there. She was unable to use her right hind leg, and the fear was that it was broken. Luckily, it wasn't - but this one had been chewed on quite a bit. Literally. It looked like the dog had got hold of the leg and given it a good hard shake, leaving two deep puncture wounds each side of the leg, and a number of other less deep scrapes and tears. There was bloodstained fluid weeping out of both of the main wounds, and one had a small piece of what looked like tendon coming out of it.
Consequently, the entire gaskin muscle and stifle joint were very swollen, and the sheep was in shock. She seemed to perk up a bit after our ministrations, but she needed veterinary attention.
Just a note here: I'm willing and able to stitch up sheep in desperate circumstances, to prevent them dying or if there's no chance of professional help. But in most situations I much prefer to leave this job for the vet. Vets have the right gear, have been taught correct technique, and have access to drugs that I don't for keeping the job clean and giving the animal a better chance while minimising its pain.
These sheep were expecting to see a vet within a few hours, and were not in immediate danger from their wounds, so we cut the wool away as much as possible and cleaned them up, and put them in a shady paddock where they could be relatively undisturbed until the vet arrived. All but the last one were eating. No 3 I'm a bit worried about because of the shock, but since we were concerned to start with that we'd have to euthanise her, I think she had a lucky break to be honest. Here is a picture of her lying with her head in my lap while she waited to be let up.
Meanwhile, the dog control officer turned up while we were doing this with a dog in the back of her truck that'd been apprehended. My client was able to identify the dog with 95% surety as the one she'd seen last night. It's hard to prove a dog has worried sheep without someone catching it in the act, however there have been, I think I heard, 13 reported incidents in the last week of dog worrying in the area, and 5 sheep killed with others injured.
So I'd suggest that if the worrying suddenly stops now this dog's in jail, it's pretty compelling circumstantial evidence, along with my client finding a dog that matches this one's description 'on high alert' in the paddock next to where her lambs were worried, 5 minutes after it happened.
If it can be proven, the dog will be euthanised. Unfortunately there's not a lot of hope for dogs that worry sheep - let's face it, they are hunters, and even the mildest family pet, once it gets an idea of how exciting chasing and killing livestock really is, will do it again given the opportunity.
It's possible to keep a sheep worrier alive, but you can never EVER let it out of your sight. And this one's owner clearly isn't too worried about letting their dog loose in the middle of the night, night after night after night, and doesn't seem concerned about what it's getting up to.
I probably don't need to say this to the readership of this blog, but after dealing with all that this morning I'm going to say it anyway: KEEP YOUR BLOODY DOG LOCKED UP AT NIGHT. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG UNSUPERVISED. EVER. Little Foo-Foo may be gentle as all getout with your wee toddler and it might be cute when she 'plays' with other animals, but make no mistake, she is a killer by nature and given the right set of circumstances, will do the same kind of damage to sheep that you see in those photos. Even small dogs can kill sheep.
Sheepdogs are the worst. They've been bred to want to chase sheep. Even my beloved First, who was my mate for 12 years and a pretty handy heading dog into the bargain, could not be trusted with sheep unsupervised. She would eventually worry them, so I never gave her the chance. And that's the only way to be sure.
*sigh* Fact is, the vast majority of people already know this. There are hundreds of dogs in the area where this happened. But it only took one fucking irresponsible arsehole to create carnage among the local sheep and cause the death of what is probably a really nice dog. I don't blame the dog, it was just being a dog. The owner, however, is lucky that they live in town. In the country there'd be no due process, the dog would have been shot already, probably in front of them, with no compunction. And it would be entirely their fault. As it is they'll lose their dog and probably a bunch of compensation money for the dead and injured sheep. And it's all so bloody unnecessary.