NEW appeals have been made to dog owners to keep animals away from sheep after a further attack and warnings the cost to farmers across the region is spiralling with £240,000 of livestock killed last year.

There are also growing concerns the spring lockdown will bring more people and their dogs into the countryside just as the lambing season is getting underway.

In the latest attack North Yorkshire police are appealing for information after a lurcher dog was left off its lead in a field full of sheep at Suggetts Field, Great Ayton. Three men are understood to have been with the dog around 3.30pm on January 25. As a result of the attack a sheep was left with severe injuries and had to be put out of its suffering.

This follows an attack on January 8 at Warlaby, near Northallerton when 18 sheep were killed and several injured by a dog or dogs, police are still appealing for information.

Rural insurers NFU Mutual say farmers in the North East and North Yorkshire have been worst affected with the cost of dog attacks on farm animals doubling last year to £240,000.

North Yorkshire farmer Paul Thorpe has suffered repeated attacks on his flock with 35 killed in one incident. At Christmas, checking his flock with his seven year-old son he found one sheep dead and horribly mutilated, and another so badly injured it had to be put down. He said: "It’s was an appalling experience for a child who has grown up on a family farm where we are out with the sheep every day."

Farming leaders fear the pandemic is encouraging more people to bring their dogs into the countryside without keeping them under proper control. A survey carried out by NFU Mutual found 64 per cent of owners said they let them roam free with half admitting they didn't always come back when called and only 40 per cent accepting pets could cause injury or death to animals.

Rebecca Davidson of NFU Mutual said: "With millions more people walking in the countryside as Covid-19 restrictions continue we have seen many more horrific attacks resulting in large numbers of sheep killed and a trail of horrific injuries. It’s a critical time as we enter the peak lambing season, there is concern there will be a surge in new visitors unaware of how their dog will behave. It’s vital dog owners act responsibly and keep dogs on a lead at all times whenever there is a possibility livestock are nearby."