A FARMER has told of his heartbreak at having his sheep “torn to pieces” by dogs and has warned that he may have to take drastic action if the problem continues.

Levisham farmer Robin Mackley is urging people to keep their dogs on leads when walking through fields with livestock in after loose dogs have tormented and killed his sheep, damaging his livelihood.

“It is absolutely heartbreaking to see my sheep tormented and torn to pieces,” he said.

“At about £100 a piece as well it’s knocking my pocket. If we lost one a month that’s going to be £1,200 by the end of the year.”

Mr Mackley estimates that dogs let off by their owners while walking on the moors have killed about 50 sheep in the area over the past ten years. The most recent killing he says was on February 20 earlier this year.

He said: “We had 11 killed in Levisham one day and they are often killed in twos and threes at a time.

“We notice it most when we are shearing the sheep and we find wounds and dog bites on them and you just think, ‘oh my god’.”

PCSO Annie Simpson, of North Yorkshire Police, said that police have received several complaints on the issue and wants to remind people that letting dogs off in a field with livestock is a criminal offence.

She said: “Any person who allows a dog to worry livestock on any agricultural land is guilty of an offence under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953.

“This also applies to any dog chasing livestock in such a way that may cause injury or suffering and in the case of females, abortion.”

Mr Mackley said that although he does not want to harm dogs, if the problem continues and he catches dogs trying to kill his sheep he may have to shoot them, as he is legally entitled to do so under Section 9 of the Animals Act 1971. North Yorkshire Police have given Mr Mackley signs to display, warning people not to let their dogs off their leads with livestock around.