"They had no chance": Woman, 60, fined £3,000 after her two 'totally out of control' dogs kill 15 sheep and have to be shot dead

Two 'totally out of control' dogs were shot dead after killing 15 sheep in a savage rampage, a court heard. Care assistant Ellie Blake, 60, was hauled into court after her two German pointers went berserk in a farmer's field in the Peak District.

The dogs were said to have 'worked together' as a team, in cornering and then fatally attacking the ewes and lambs. Blake had earlier lost sight of the dogs whilst walking through Pym Chair, Kettleshulme in Cheshire but minutes later other walkers looked on in horror as they systematically attacked the flock.

Farmer Graham Ford who owns the flock dashed to the scene following a call from a neighbour but then had to contact a colleague to shoot the hounds saying they looked 'fixated' with mauling as many sheep as possible.


One of the rampant dogs ignored warning shots and both had to be killed to prevent further damage. Ten sheep including lambs and ewes were killed outright by the hounds, while a further five had to be put to sleep on account of their wounds.

Blake knew nothing of the horror until she went home without the two dogs and police subsequently arrived to speak to her. When quizzed she said she was 'shocked' at what happened and had never anticipated her dogs would behave in such a way.

She said both were professionally trained and there had never been any issues with them before. She agreed that it was right that the farmer shot them.

At Chester magistrates' court, Blake, of Raglan Road, Macclesfield, pleaded guilty to being the owner of two dogs worrying livestock and being owner of dogs dangerously out of control. She was fined £400, ordered to pay £460 in costs and a victim surcharge and £3,160.80 in damages to the National Farmers Union which compensated Mr Ford for his lost sheep.

She was spared a ban from keeping animals. The incident occurred on October 14 last year when Blake was taking the dogs out with a friend.

Michael O'Kane, prosecuting: "They were in fact with three German wire haired pointers, two of which during the walk have run off. The defendant made attempts to find the dogs and used a whistle to call them but the dogs did not return to her.

"She then returned home with the other dog before she and the friend returned to try and locate them. Mr Ford has been farming for over 30 years and has 1,000 ewes in his flock.

"He received a phone call from a distressed lady who advised him the sheep were being attacked. He made his way to the location with his sister and two people were already at the scene and they relayed to him that the sheep were under attack.

"Mr Ford then observed two dogs out of control chasing and attacking his sheep. Several sheep were lying on the floor motionless and covered with blood.

"Initially, the dogs were working together. One dog would corner the sheep and the other would attack.

"They were totally out of control and appeared to be fixated and attacking as many as possible. They ran them down. When the sheep had fallen to the floor and became motionless they would move on to another.

"The sheep had no chance. Mr Ford wanted to drive his vehicle towards the dogs to distract them. But that was not possible due to the wet ground.''

Mr Ford had no firearm's licence so contacted another farmer he knew who had a gun which he used to control vermin at his farm.

Mr O’Kane added: "The other farmer Mr Baker then attended and could see one of the dogs running towards a lamb and cornering it against the wall. He fired two warning shots over the dog's head in the hope that it would stop the attack but the warning shots had no effect and the only option to Mr Baker was to shoot the dog. There were two shots in quick succession and the dog died instantaneously.

"One of the males who was at the scene was able to capture the other dog but it was continuing to try and break free from that male's grasp. Mr Baker was concerned that the dog would break free and attack not only livestock but possibly the people in attendance also so he took the decision that there was no alternative unfortunately to shoot that dog also.

"He confirms the distress that was caused to him by having no alternative to dispatch both dogs in the fashion that he did. There were a number of ewes and lambs that were killed as a result of the incident, six lambs and nine ewes. Five of those ewes needed to be put down by Mr Baker due to the level of injury that they sustained during the attack.

''That compounded the distress to Mr Baker who was not only forced to deal with the dogs, but he had to survey the field to dispatch sheep also.

"Mr Ford was also caused a great deal of distress. He prides himself in looking after livestock to the highest possible standard. To see them being attacked was a very distressing situation for him. Fifteen animals were killed as the result of the defendant’s failure to manage her dogs whilst out for a walk.''

In mitigation Blake's lawyer Isabel Thomas said: "She has always expressed her shock and horror at the way that two dogs behaved. When interviewed by police she said if the dogs had behaved in such a way then the farmers did the right thing.

"She never foresaw her dogs behave in such a way and never expected them to do so. She has owned dogs for many years and she has always ensured that her dogs are well trained. She is extremely sorry for what the farmer in this case has had to go through.

"Like him, she is devastated that harm has come to any animal. She continues to express her apologies and sincere remorse for what the farmer had to go through. She is a responsible dog owner and she has taken pride in the way that she looks after her animals. The third dog is with her partner and she has no dogs now.''

Sentencing Blake, District Judge Jack McGarva told her: "I speak as someone who loves dogs and wildlife when I say this whole thing is tragic.

"The picture of nine ewes, mother sheep, and six lambs, dying in horrific circumstances is very distressing. But also the two dogs which you must have loved and cherished were dispatched as well. It is an awful situation.

"The dogs must have been off the lead or slipped their leads but when you have got a large powerful dog, 30 kilograms each, there is a very strong responsibility on you as the keeper to make sure that it is under control at all times. It requires particular vigilance.

"I own springer spaniels, they are not as big but they can also cause a lot of damage to sheep. They can run after them and sheep can be killed from heart attacks just from the shock. When walking in the countryside you have to be extra vigilant and it is your responsibility when you take dogs out that they are under control.

"We do not know why the dogs ceased to be under your control but this awful incident occurred and I found it particularly stressful to read about it for everybody's sake and that includes you. I just hope that the whole incident has been a kind of real warning to make you realise what dogs are capable of. We all heard and know that dogs can act in an unexpected way."