THE scale of dog attacks on livestock has been revealed in a new report.

The report by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) also highlights the challenges faced by police forces in supporting farmers to deal with the issue.

As it stands, dog owners are not obliged to make a report to the police if their dog attacks any livestock, and attacks are not treated as a "recordable crime" on police systems. As a result, there has been little reliable police data on the scale of the problem facing farmers and livestock owners.

However, a recent report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare estimated that about 15,000 sheep alone were killed by dogs in 2016, putting the cost to the farming sector at about£1.3m.

Chief Constable David Jones, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for wildlife and rural crime, said: “This project provides hard data showing livestock worrying is a very significant issue for farmers that impacts on their livelihoods.

“We need dog-owners to take responsibility for their animals – not just by putting their dogs on a lead when out walking, but by preventing them from escaping from home and causing damage to livestock.

“We need livestock owners to report incidents so that we can gather intelligence and launch investigations.

“Above all, we need the powers to tackle this problem effectively and an overhaul of the outdated and sometimes ineffective rules surrounding livestock worrying.”

Over the last year, five police forces, including North Yorkshire, have been taking part in an initiative to look at the true extent of livestock worrying in the countryside.

The forces analysed data on their systems from 2013 to 2017.

Their findings included that there were 1705 recorded incidents of livestock worrying and attacks in the five force areas, with 1,928 animals killed and 1,614 injured.

They also found that 11 per cent of the incidents involved repeat offenders – owners or walkers whose dog had worried or caused damage to livestock before – and that in the majority of incidents the dog owner was not present at the time of the attack.

Angela Smith MP, co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, added: “ The report clearly highlights the serious challenges that police forces face when dealing with the problem of dog attacks on livestock and I eagerly await the Government’s response.”

Lord Gardiner, Minister for animal welfare, said: “Livestock worrying is distressing for farmers and animals and can have serious financial repercussions.

“That is why Defra has been working with community organisations, and with police forces to highlight the support available, encourage farmers to report incidents to the authorities and for the police to take appropriate action.

“The report makes a number of recommendations and proposals for improvements to the legislation which I will be looking at closely.”