SPRING visitors to the countryside are being urged to keep their dogs under control as farmers brace themselves for a wave of attacks on their sheep over Easter.

Leading rural insurer NFU Mutual is concerned that the Easter break could see an influx of walkers unfamiliar with the Countryside Code and unaware of how their new dogs will behave around livestock.

It is a critical time for farmers as the spring lambing period is now well underway, meaning ewes and new born lambs are often grazing close to footpaths, which can put them at risk of dog attacks.

According to a survey of dog owners commissioned by NFU Mutual, 88 per cent of people say they now walk their dog in the countryside.

And while 64 per cent of dog owners say they let their dog run free in the countryside - half admit their pet doesn’t always come back when called.

Livestock worrying cost the North-East region an estimated £241,000 last year, according to NFU Mutual statistics.

Across the UK, the cost of dog attacks rose by over ten per cent in 2020 to an estimated £1.3m.

Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “These attacks cause immense suffering to animals and are devastating for farmers.

“Dog attacks are easily preventable if owners keep their pets under control and on a lead when livestock may be nearby.

"Doing so keeps sheep and their lambs safe from harm and stops a country walk turning into carnage.”