Farmers in the Tosside area of the Ribble Valley lost lambs worth thousands of pounds to a dog which became known as “The beast of Bowland.”
But Blackburn magistrates heard that a dog caught eating the carcass of a recently dead lamb could not be held responsible for the deaths.
And because it was not seen actually chasing sheep the magistrates could not make a control order, which would have restricted the dog’s movement.
David Kenneth Fowler (46), of Middle Knotts farm, Tosside, pleaded guilty to being the owner of a dog which worried livestock. He was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay £60 costs.
Mr Neil White (prosecuting) said the dog, called Bella, had been kennelled by police since the incident on May 31st, but he accepted they did not have the power to do that.
He said that prior to the date when Bella was found in the field eating a lamb – which the farmer said was so recently dead it was “still steaming” – there had been a number of incidents in the vicinity of the defendant’s address. He said 21 lambs had been killed and a number injured.
“This dog was found in a field eating a lamb,” said Mr White. “The defence say that is the only time the dog was out, but the local farmers believed it was responsible for the other incidents.”
Mr Ron Heaton (defending) said his client pleaded guilty on the basis that the dog was at large in a field where there were sheep.
“We accept that amounts to worrying livestock, but we do not accept Bella was responsible for any other incidents, indeed she had an alibi for all the other days,” said Mr Heaton.
He said Bella was a six-year-old Labrador/Weirmaraner cross and had been a family pet since she was a puppy.
“My client is not a farmer, but he lives in sheep country,” said Mr Heaton. “The sheep belong to his neighbours and he is dismayed this has happened.”
Mr Heaton said Bella had not been seen to kill the lamb she was eating.
“There is an offence, but there is no direct evidence Bella was the killer of this or any other lambs,” he said.
The magistrates could not make a control order but Mr Heaton said his client was prepared to make a voluntary undertaking that the dog would be kept under control.