WALKERS have been warned to keep their dogs on leads after one farmer suffered several sheep attacks last month.

Farmer's livestock is being put at risk by dog walkers not adhering to the Countryside Code, according to rural insurance company NFU Mutual.

Jeremy Plank farms 1,700 ewes across his farm in Hungerford, West Berkshire and has suffered several dog attacks over the years, including two in March 2021.

He feels concerned that the risk is now higher than ever before.

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Jeremy said: “It’s incredibly worrying that we’ve had two attacks already this year. We still have the whole season ahead of us. The risk has noticeably grown, with more people choosing to walk on the farm for their daily exercise during lockdown.

“Early in March, we found seven ewes dead after they were chased into a dyke and drowned. Another attack this month saw a dog chase heavily pregnant ewes. Although the owners were there at the time, they could not get the dog to return to them. Many people don’t realise that the stress of the chase can cause sheep to miscarry, so even if you can’t see an injury, that doesn’t mean the dog hasn’t caused harm."

According to a survey of dog owners commissioned by NFU Mutual, 88 per cent of people say they now walk their dog in the countryside. While 64 per cent of dog owners say they let their dog run free in the countryside - half admit their pet doesn’t always come back when called.

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As a result, many farm animals are seriously injured or killed each year in dog attacks.

Livestock worryingly cost the South East an estimated £115,000 last year, according to NFU Mutual statistics.

Mr Plank added: "Lambing is a busy and stressful time for farmers even without dog attacks as an added concern. The risk doesn’t only increase our worry, but also our workload. Our sheep are spread over a wide area and we have had carry out additional patrols to make sure they remain safe.

"We do everything we can to prevent dog attacks. We put signs up on gates and fences, report attacks and share our number with local people so they can report any incidents they see. To make these measures work, however, the key thing is public co-operation. We urge dog owners to be responsible. If you neglect to put your dog on a lead when livestock are nearby, it can have tragic consequences. "

Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “These attacks cause immense suffering to animals and are devastating for farmers. Dog attacks are easily preventable if owners keep their pets under control and on a lead when livestock may be nearby.”

Walkers are also being urged to report any incidents of livestock worrying they may witness.

The ‘What3Words’ app can be used to pinpoint your exact location, so you can report where you have seen an incident to within a 3m x 3m area.

Attacks can leave livestock with painful injuries, so prompt and accurate information could save animals hours of suffering.