A new survey has revealed that almost a quarter of dog owners have reported that their pet has chased animals, including livestock.
Dog owners and walkers have been told of the importance of keeping pets on the lead to avoid devastating attacks on livestock this spring.
A survey carried out as part of the RSPCA's #DogKind campaign revealed 24% of dog owners reported that their dogs had chased other animals, and of those only 29% sought help - prompting the charity to urge owners to take extra care.
Figures from livestock worrying within five police force areas also suggest that dogs involved in incidents are more often alone than with an owner or walker present.
Dog welfare expert at the RSPCA, Dr Samantha Gaines said: “Sadly, it seems some dog owners do not think it is a problem that their pets chase livestock, or some believe it’s not something their pet is likely to do.
“Our survey shows almost a quarter of owners have experienced it with their pets and we’re concerned that people may be unaware of the risk or are not taking it as seriously as they should.
“Many dogs, if given the opportunity, will chase or show interest in livestock, and even those who are well trained or usually not ‘bothered’ can worry and give chase. This puts farm animals at considerable risk.”
Dr Gaines added: “Chasing sheep in particular can cause serious, lasting injury and have horrible impacts, like the loss of unborn lambs. It’s not enough to think you can call your dog back from chasing livestock, and that is the end of it - the stress alone of being chased by a dog can be enough to kill a sheep, which many people don’t know.”
The RSPCA is renewing its efforts to stop livestock worrying from taking place, encouraging dog owners to be mindful of other animals whilst enjoying the countryside, including a focus on ensuring dogs are kept on leads.
The public have been told to ensure that homes and gardens are secure to prevent dogs from escaping and to watch out for signs that livestock might be grazing.
It is completely lawful for a farmer to shoot a dog to protect livestock.