The National Sheep Association (NSA) is urging ministers to take advantage of current legislation passing through Parliament and legislate to put a stop to shocking incidents of sheep worrying by dogs.

NSA believes the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill currently progressing through its various Parliamentary stages offers a prime opportunity to bring much needed action.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker explained: “Simply including the instruction for dogs to be on a lead when in the proximity of, or likely to come into contact with grazing livestock, would reduce these terrible incidents and by increasing the fines would act as a deterrent for irresponsible dog owners who do not keep their dogs under control.”

NSA has recently received a spate of reports, highlighting a worrying increase in the number of attacks causing untold stress and significant animal welfare concerns. As a nation, the UK, quite rightly, demands high standards of animal welfare in farming.

A number of disturbing cases reported recently include sheep killed by a train after a dog chased them onto a railway line and a case of the RSPCA being alerted when a sheep was chased off of a cliff by a dog.

NSA applauds the current actions being taken in Scotland, with the recent strengthening of legislation to increase penalties for owners who let their dogs attack livestock to a maximum fine of £40,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment. A new campaign from Police Scotland and other rural bodies titled ‘Your Dog – Your Responsibility’, is also highlighting the increased penalties for those found guilty of letting their pets worry, kill or injure farmed animals.

Grace Reid, NSA Scottish region co-ordinator said: "We are extremely pleased to see the recent strengthening of Scottish legislation relating to sheep worrying by dogs.

"Ministers across the nations are urged to welcome an equal approach if they are able to do so. However, it is clear much more education and responsibility is required when accessing the countryside to prevent the use of strengthened powers.

"In its simplest form, each dog owner should have complete and total control over their dog at all times and this sadly is not the case.”

Sheep worrying by dogs is a serious issue for sheep farmers, often resulting in injuries and even death of affected sheep. During the months of January and February and moving into Spring, ewes are likely to be carrying lambs meaning the consequences can be felt even more keenly with heavily pregnant ewes then at risk of miscarriage due to stress.

NSA’s Mr Stocker concluded: “You may not consider your dog capable of chasing and attacking sheep but it is an instinctive response and the stress and injury it can lead to can be absolutely shocking.”