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Peter Withecombe takes dead sheep into Northam Town Council meeting

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: April 18, 2013

DEAD SHEEP: Peter Withecombe holding a lamb killed by dogs. Picture: Mike Southon.

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DESPERATE grazier Peter Withecombe flung a dead sheep on to the floor in front of shocked councillors at a meeting.

The 57-year-old stormed into a Northam Town Council meeting with the body of a sheep which had just been savaged by a dog.

Mr Withecombe, whose family has had grazing rights on Northam Burrows for four generations, took the drastic step on Monday after losing two sheep in a week.

He walked into Northam Town Council's burrows committee meeting at its Windmill Lane offices and threw the animal on the floor.

Mr Withecombe is an advisory member of the committee but said he had not been invited to Monday's meeting.

He said: "When I walked in I said, 'look what you are responsible for'.

"The chairman Councillor Richard Miller then said to call the police."

Police have confirmed they were first called by a dog owner at 7.45am on Monday who told them their dog had just killed a sheep.

After being contacted by the council they attended and gave Mr Withecombe "words of advice".

Mr Withecombe has been at his wits' end as he continues to lose sheep to dog attacks.

He feels the authorities with the power to act are not doing anything.

Last year he lost more than 20 sheep.

Over Christmas he lost three pregnant ewes, which he has estimated has cost him £1,000.

Northam council clerk Jane Mills confirmed the disturbance at the meeting and said the police were called for a breach of the peace.

She said: "There was blood on the floor and some on the door from the sheep.

"Mr Withecombe then picked the sheep up and left. The police arrived shortly after.

"The town council has no legal standing over the burrows. We administer the grazing rights as Lords of the Manor but can't do anything else.

"He needs to take it up with Torridge District Council."

But Mr Withecombe believes he has tried all he can to get Torridge, which owns the burrows, to help protect his sheep.

He said: "I don't know what else I can do. I want them to enforce the CROW Act which is in place for most of the burrows. It is an ancient act which means dogs must be on leads on the burrows, but this is never referred to.

"I also hoped Torridge would enforce an extra order directing dogs must be on leads on the burrows, but they want to listen to dog walkers instead.

"It is about time it was sorted otherwise there will be a major incident down there.

"The councillors just think it is all right to sit on the fence with this."

The most recent Northam Burrows dog orders to be enforced by Torridge were confirmed at a full council meeting on Monday night.

After a further consultation on the matter, Torridge has decided to enforce a Lead by Direction order all year round on the burrows.

This means that unless a dog owner is directed to put their pet on a lead by an official then the dog can be loose.

Mr Withecombe said: "It is too late. By the time someone tells them to put the dog on a lead, it has already done the damage."

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