Dog owners are 'still allowing' their pets to attack livestock despite numerous campaigns educating the public on the issue, a farming union has warned.
The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said it is 'wrong' that farmers continue to pay for people's 'lack of respect' for the countryside and for farming families to continue to witness the effects of attacks on livestock.
It comes after a number of incidents over Easter, including an attack on a County Armagh farm, which saw ewes, and their lambs killed and maimed by a dog attack involving a number of animals.
Meanwhile, a young farmer from Somerset used social media to highlight the damage loose dogs can do when worrying sheep.
UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt said dog attacks on livestock have 'far-reaching impacts' on farm families.
“Insurance may cover direct losses, but this does not compensate for the knock on impact on breeding programmes and flock genetics. It also does not take into consideration the unnecessary suffering of the animal,” said Mr Chestnutt.
He criticised the lack of understanding displayed by some dog owners, who 'cannot see their pets as potential killers'.
“One recently claimed to me that if a dog does not draw blood no harm has been done. This is a ridiculous assumption. The stress of the chase alone kills sheep,” he said.
He also stressed that those living close to rural areas must make sure their animals cannot escape to wreak havoc on farms.
“People view their animals as pets incapable of doing something like this. However it is in their nature and dog owners need to understand that in extreme situations farmers have a right to protect their livestock from attack,” he warned.
In response to the continuing rise in the number of attacks, farmers have suggested steps such as checking livestock regularly, erecting signs warning dog owners to keep animals on a lead, ensuring fences are sound and working with neighbours to identify and respond to threats from dogs.