Roger Salmon column

A Spring lamb in a field.
A Spring lamb in a field.

Vets are urging owners to keep their dogs on leads near livestock after recent figures confirmed attacks have risen by more than 50 per cent in the past three years.

Backed by Farmers Guardian, the campaign aims to improve relationships in rural areas by encouraging owners to keep dogs on leads near livestock.

Many owners do not realise that just round the corner or in the next field there may be flocks of pregnant sheep and if the dog is off the lead it may be too late to retrieve the situation.

Vets see first hand the terrible consequences when dogs are not kept under control, particularly at lambing season.

There is also a great danger to the dog as farmers are liable to shoot the dog in such a situation as chasing sheep.

It is important to always know where your dog is in rural areas as they can cause a lot of damage in a short time.

Most owners are well meaning, but if a dog is out of sight, they may not be aware of the chasing or attack.

Vets do not want to discourage people from walking their dogs in the countryside as it is great exercise and there are health benefits for both owner and pet.

However, responsible ownership, is the cornerstone of good relationship between dog owners and farmers.

New figures, obtained using a Freedom of Information request to UK police forces, showed there were more than 1,000 attacks on livestock by dogs in 2013 - up from 691 in 2011.

These figures make disturbing reading for anyone with an interest in animal welfare.

If a dog is allowed to worry livestock the owner can be prosecuted and fined, ordered to pay compensation and even have the dog destroyed.