DOG owners are being urged to keep their pets under control in the countryside following reports of livestock being harmed by canines which are allowed off their lead.
Police in North Lancashire have received a number of complaints from farmers after a series of incidents in which pregnant ewes and new-born lambs have been harassed by dogs.
This can cause not only stress to the animals, but can also have financial implications for the farmer if the sheep or lambs are injured or killed.
It is particularly important that dogs are kept on a lead during the lambing season, which is now underway.
Owners can be fined under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, if their pets are found to be worrying or chasing livestock.
PC Antony Marsh said: “Unfortunately, each year sheep are killed by dogs which have been let off their leads in fields that contain livestock.
“Owners may believe that their pets will not harm the animals but a loose dog is distressing for the sheep. On occasions dogs do attack, and these attacks can be fatal.
“This can be a traumatic experience, not just for the sheep and the other animals in the field, but also for the farmer, whose livelihood is intrinsically tied to these animals, and the dog owner, who is often taken completely by surprise by their pet’s behaviour.”
The warning to keep pets on a lead also comes after a sheep was killed at a farm near Carnforth. The animal’s body had been dumped in a bush after its throat had been torn out in what appeared to be an attack by a dog.
PC Marsh added: “Owners can be fined if their dogs are worrying livestock but there is also the risk that their pet may be shot by a farmer trying to protect his flock. I would like to remind all dog walkers to ensure that their pets remain on their leads where required.
“It is important that they remain obedient and under control at all times to ensure there is no potential for them to chase or worry sheep that may be in lamb. We will be taking positive action against irresponsible owners.
“Livestock are an important part of farmers’ livelihood and they would appreciate the public’s assistance in protecting their animals at this important time of year.”