Dog trainer's £10 penalties as sheep chased on moor
A MAN has been fined after his dogs chased sheep on Dartmoor.
Douglas Symonds, aged 59, admitted two charges of being in charge of a dog worrying sheep near his home at Peatcot Farm near Princetown. He was given a £10 fine for each offence.
The case was brought to Plymouth Magistrates' Court in a rare prosecution. Gareth Warden, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said Symonds left his home with eight dogs, believed to be black and white collies, on March 30. He said two of the dogs were seen by an independent witness to break free from the pack and chase some of the sheep on to the land of their owner, Graham Palmer.
Mr Warden added Mr Palmer was worried the sheep would miscarry because they were heavily in lamb.
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He said one of the collie dogs chased five of the sheep "for a considerable time" during the second incident on April 13. Mr Warden added police found two dead sheep in a bog three days later but there was no evidence the chase had led to their death.
Mr Symonds, representing himself, said his partner Lisa Robertson trained sheepdogs which often took part in trials. He said he took the dogs for walks.
He added in the first incident one of his dogs "must have run off".
Mr Symonds said: "I shouted at him and he came back. The dogs are all trained.
"It was like One Man and his Dog, it is like you see every Sunday on BBC 2 during the summer.
"I did not think much more about it."
He was referring to the popular and long-running sheep dog trialling programme.
Mr Symonds said he knew nothing about the second incident.
He said he let one of the dogs out of the house in the morning so that he could "do his business".
He added there had been antagonism between him and Mr Palmer and he was now trying to move.
Magistrates fined him £10 for each offence, ordered that he pay £65 in costs and £15 victim surcharge.
Presiding magistrate Jane Mutch said: "We are not making an award for compensation, because there is no evidence of any injury to the sheep."
FARMER HITS OUT AT FINES
THE farmer whose sheep were chased by dogs has dismissed the £10 fines for the two offences as "pathetic".
Graham Palmer, who keeps flocks at Sheepstor and Princetown on Dartmoor, said the level of the fines imposed was "piddling pathetic" and would do nothing to deter dog walkers keeping a check on their dogs in future.
Mr Palmer said: "We have had 25 years of sheep being harassed and attacked by dogs. I thought it would only be a fine but expected it to be more.
"This is sending out the wrong message – people have got to know they cannot let their dogs do this and could be in for a painful experience if they do."
The Protection of Livestock (dogs) Act 1953 imposes a £10 fine per offence in cases where dogs are proved to have been worrying livestock, rising to £50 where there has been a previous conviction.
Karla McKechnie, Dartmoor's livestock protection officer, said the prosecution was a rare event as incidents are usually settled privately.
She added: "It wasn't a big fine but it is good publicity against sheep worrying. It shows farmers are not going to sit back. I cannot change the law but the fact that we got a sheep-worrying incident to court and got a conviction was a positive result."