AN association for rural businesses and land in England has issued a warning to dog owners as hundreds of farmers take part in the lambing season.

The Country Land and Business Association in the North of England warned against livestock worrying across the county.

Dogs allowed to roam farmland off their lead can chase, worry and attack sheep, often resulting in a devastating impact on both the animal victim and the farmer.

Dorothy Fairburn, Country Land and Business Association North director, said: “We would advise owners to keep their dogs on a lead or under close control when walking through fields of livestock, particularly sheep at this time of year, and to always stick to public rights of ways. If you live near land with livestock in it, ensure that you know where your dog is at all times, and that your property is secure so your dog can’t escape at any time – It is the owner’s responsibility to keep their dog under control and we are also raising awareness about the potential consequences of not doing so.”

Mrs Fairburn said any surviving sheep do not cope well under stress, and often die from shock days after being involved in a dog chase.

Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, livestock worrying is a criminal offence and the law states that owners of a dog, who are found guilty, can be fined up to £1,000 and have their pet destroyed.

Ms Fairburn added: “It is important that every instance of livestock worrying is reported to the police. This will allow for a more accurate picture of the scale of the problem to be built up and assist the police and local authority to determine what resources and powers are required in order to effectively tackle the problem. Where a dog is in the act of worrying livestock and there is, or is likely to be serious damage to those livestock, call police on 999 – alternatively, dial 101 to report an incident where the dogs are no longer present after an attack or to report problem dog behaviour.”

Last year, The Northern Echo and its sister titles The Darlington & Stockton Times and The Northern Farmer, launched the campaign, Lead The Way, after a spate of attacks on sheep during last year’s lambing season.

The campaign called for it to be made compulsory for dogs to be on leads near livestock.