Crofter issues appeal to dog owners after ‘horrendous’ attack on sheep

A crofter in Yell has told of a “horrendous” dog attack which left one of her sheep so badly injured she had to put it down.

Ellie Sinclair has highlighted the traumatic encounter in the hope it will remind dog owners to be aware of the dangers as lambing season approaches.

A boxer-Staffy cross, recently taken in by one of her neighbours as a rescue dog, got loose on Friday and inflicted terrible injuries on two of her flock.

As the owners did not realise their pet had come into contact with any sheep they did not think to tell her what had happened.

It was only the following morning that Mrs Sinclair’s other neighbours alerted her to the injured animals.

One sheep had a bitten nose, while the other was missing an ear and had devastating injuries to the side of its face.

The injuries were severe. 
The injuries were severe. 

“As soon as we saw it, we knew it was a dog attack,” Mrs Sinclair said.

“It was horrendous.

“I previously worked at the abattoir and so I’ve killed sheep for a living but this was very different.

“When we killed an animal, it was done as humanely as possible and with minimal suffering, so to see a sheep in that level of pain and stress was horrible.”

The sheep with the lesser injuries has been treated with antibiotics and will hopefully make a full recovery, but the other had to be put down.

Mrs Sinclair ensured she was the one to dispatch the injured animal.

“I wanted to make sure his last moments were of a gentle touch and soft kind words as he had already been through enough,” Mrs Sinclair said.

The sheep that is hoped to survive had been bottle-fed by Mrs Sinclair as a caddy lamb.

“I put a huge amount of time and effort into raising him and keeping him well, he almost died on me when he was a lamb,” she said.

“So to put all that work in so that he can have the best life possible and then to be attacked by a dog is hard to take.”

Ellie Sinclair pictured with one of the sheep prior to the attack.
Ellie Sinclair pictured with one of the sheep prior to the attack.

The 38-year-old crofter said the owners had taken the matter seriously, paid for her losses and were dealing with the dog.

She said they tried to prevent any problems by keeping it on a lead, building a taller garden fence and trying to train it.

“It was just an unfortunate incident and they are having as rough a time as we are,” she said.

“I’m not pressing charges but I have requested the police log it as an incident as it’s really important these things are reported for statistical reasons.”

Her main message is for dog owners to ensure they tell the farmer whenever their pet gets loose among sheep – even if they do not think any injury has been inflicted.

“If they had said something, we could have done a quick welfare check but by not saying anything that animal had to suffer for a whole day,” she added.

“Even if contact has not been made an animal can still become stressed.

“Pregnant ewes can abort lambs or have premature births that can limit the lambs’ chance of survival.

“So, if a dog gets among sheep, please let the farmer know because even if you don’t think any injury has been caused it’s still really important that they are checked on.

“Nobody thinks their dog will do something like this, until it does.”

Mrs Sinclair has been crofting in Herra, near Mid Yell, since 2019 and her husband, Kevin’s family, have been there for generations.

It is thankfully the first dog attack they have encountered, and hopefully the last.

“It could have been worse,” she said.

“We were going to move our pregnant ewes into that field but hadn’t gotten around to it.

“Or heaven forbid it could have been our child.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received a report that a dog had attacked two sheep in the Yell area of Shetland around 7am on Saturday, 16th March, 2024.

“Enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances.” 


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