The grim sight of a dead sheep’s rotting carcass, left next to a footpath as a warning to irresponsible dog owners, left walkers shocked.
But the farmer who left it there has said it was the only way of getting his message across in an effort to trace the culprit dog’s owner.
The dog attack happened in a field next to the River Calder at Whalley, and a dramatic picture of the incident was taken by a resident from the opposite river bank.
For nearly a week the dead animal was left tethered by orange twine to a wooden post near a gate on Ridding Lane, which is popular with local walkers and visitors to the village. Carrion birds feasted on the dead animal’s eyes and innards.
A sign was placed on a nearby fence stating: “This sheep was killed along with another which was chased into the river and swept away.”
It warned: “If your dog is caught chasing sheep it could be shot.”
Some walkers told the Clitheroe Advertiser they understood the problem farmers had with out-of-control dogs, but leaving the dead sheep was going too far.
Whalley resident Wez Hollin, of Abbotts Croft, told how her daughter Liselle (19) stumbled across the carcass in the dark while walking their dog down Ridding Lane.
She said: “I got a frantic phone call from her. She’d found this dead sheep, and she was really upset and didn’t know what to do.
“It was horrible, and I’m shocked that someone would take such a drastic step to get a message across. They don’t have to show us the decaying carcass of a sheep.”
Billington resident Mrs Kath Shorrock, of Dale View, taking a walk down Ridding Lane, said: “A lot of people walk down here, and that’s not a very nice sight to look at.
“It should have been taken away before now.”
Retired butcher Mr Philip Wilkinson, from Barrowford, visiting Whalley for a country stroll, added: “Of course it’s an offence for dogs to worry sheep, but I think leaving a dead sheep here is going too far. A notice would have been enough.”
But farmer Colin Middleton, of Little Mitton Hall Farm, robustly defended his actions.
He said: “I don’t think I was going too far leaving it there for a few days. I just wanted to make people aware of the problem we have.
“Residents at Hackings caravan park have rung me a few times about a woman walking a big black dog that she can’t control, but they’re on the opposite side of the river and couldn’t do anything.
“That’s the dog that attacked. It’s worried one animal and driven another into the river.
“Even if dogs don’t actually attack, they can get excited and chase sheep into fences and railings, then the animal dies later with brain damage or shock.
“It’s a public footpath, and I don’t have an issue with people walking their dogs as long as they keep them under control.”