IN THE wake of recent dog attacks in Malmesbury, Wiltshire Police are raising awareness about responsible dog ownership in rural communities as they tackle the problem of livestock worrying.

They are asking dog owners to be responsible when out enjoying the countryside by keeping all dogs on a lead, particularly around other animals.

Livestock worrying is a criminal offence and the penalty can be 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £1000.

Malmesbury has seen two dog attacks in recent weeks that have been caused by irresponsible dog ownership.

Fortunately nobody was injured in either attacks however lives were put at risk after the dog owners refused to head calls by the victims to put their pets on a lead.

A spokesperson for Wiltshire police said: “Whether your dog is large or small, naughty or well behaved, the message is simple.

“Keep your dog on a lead when you are near livestock.

“You can't assume your dog's good nature means it won't chase or attack livestock.

“If your dog’s natural instinct to chase livestock kicks in it could be too late before you realise anything is wrong.

“Any risk of livestock worrying can be avoided by simply putting our dogs on a lead.”

Andi Witcombe, the National Farmers Union (NFU) county adviser for Wiltshire said: “Livestock worrying is a significant and increasing issue for our farmers across Wiltshire.

“The National Farmers Union Mutual found that in 2016 they had 50% more claims compared to the previous year. Particularly at this time of year from January to May time when sheep are in the field and lambing.

“British farmers rear their livestock to some of the highest welfare standards across the world. Having dogs chase or worry their animals seriously undermines that.

“There is a financial impact for businesses, a ewe might be worth £150 to £200 and a lamb potentially £80 to £100. If animals are killed there is a financial issue there, but also if they are stressed and worried it can affect their growth and fertility causing long term impacts as well.

“For the farmer it is particularly distressing and worrying, they spend every day of the year taking care of their animals and to see them worried or injured is incredibly distressing for them."

PC Marc Jackson, the operational rural crime lead for Wiltshire said: “We want people to go out there and enjoy the countryside. If people are out using the public rights of way with a dog, use a bit of common sense.

"Use a lead if there is livestock around and don’t deviate from the footpaths as potentially they could be trespassing.”