DOG walkers are being reminded to watch out for livestock as lambing season begins.
Avon and Somerset Police has issued to reminder to dog-owners to follow the "country code" when out and about with a pet.
PC Katy Drabble, from the Rural Crime Team, said: “Last year we saw quite a few cases of sheep worrying and that term doesn’t always reflect the devastation caused in some cases.
“In addition to the impact of actual dog attacks, sheep are highly-strung animals and in lambing season any stress caused to a pregnant ewe can cause them to lose their lambs.”
The NFU Mutual estimated that over 18,500 livestock animals were killed or injured in dog attacks in 2015. The cost of this to farmers was estimated at £1.1m – a rise of 35 per cent on the previous year.
An easy way to protect all the animals while on a walk is to keep your dog(s) on a lead.
PC Drabble added: “We know dog owners love to stroll in the countryside with their pets but we cannot stress enough how important it is to be aware of your surroundings.
“Even if you think your dog is placid and friendly, when faced with a field full of livestock they can be unpredictable. It’s simply not worth taking the risk – keep your dog on a lead and away from livestock.
“If your dog is found to be responsible for sheep worrying then as its owner you could find yourself with a large vets bill, prosecution and the strong possibility of your dog being destroyed as a result. We don't want that to happen, we don't want anyone to lose a much-loved family pet, so please keep them on the lead."
Follow this police advice if you're out on a walk:
•Always check for livestock in fields when walking your dog/s.
•Always make sure you shut gates behind you.
•When in fields with livestock, it is vital that your dog/s are kept on a lead and under control at all times. The only time you should release your dog is in the event of being chased by cattle. By restraining the dog in this circumstance you are putting yourself at risk of being injured by the cattle.
•If you live near livestock and own a dog/s make sure that your property and garden are secure so your pets cannot escape.