THE Cumbrian police and crime commissioner has called for dog owners to keep their dogs on leads in rural areas after 12 reports of sheep worrying were received by the constabulary since January.

Peter McCall said it was a dog owner’s duty to ensure that 'all dogs are kept on a lead when in a field with or near livestock', when he revealed the number of incidents, three of which resulted in sheep injury and four resulted in the death of a sheep.

The force warned that dog owners found by police allowing their dog to be off-lead and worrying animals could face a fine of up to £1000 and farmers were legally entitled to shoot dogs endangering their livestock.

“We are exceptionally lucky to live in a picturesque, rural county with plenty of walking trails that lead through the countryside,” McCall said. “However, this privilege does come with responsibility. We have many farmers and agricultural businesses whose livelihoods depend on the health of their livestock.

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“We have reached that time of year when many ewes are lambing, and these sheep and offspring are highly vulnerable. Please keep your dogs on a lead, and respect and enjoy your surroundings.”

Chief inspector Lee Skelton, Cumbria Constabulary’s rural crime lead, said sheep and livestock worrying is a serious issue that can be 'very distressing' for farmers and livestock owners. “It is in a dog’s nature, no matter how placid they may be, to chase and if sheep are chased they become distressed and their instinct is to run, often resulting in horrific injury or death,” he said.

“Dog owners must remember to keep their dogs under control and on a lead around farm animals and wildlife. We would advise all dog owners and walkers to adhere to the Countryside Code which offers advice on walking dogs responsibly near livestock and wildlife.”