FARMERS, landowners and rural business people are urging dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead when near livestock.

Thousands of sheep will give birth in the next few weeks on moorland, hillside or other countryside across North Yorkshire as the lambing season gets underway.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) warns that livestock worrying, when dogs chase or attack sheep, can cause them stress, injury, abortion or death.

It is urging anyone witnessing or aware of an incident of livestock worrying to contact police so that they can build up a detailed picture of the extent of the problem.

Acting CLA Director North, Henk Geertsema, 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. Livestock worrying is a criminal offence and a fine can be handed out.”

“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.”

Every year, livestock is killed or injured by dogs that chase or worry them.