Complacency among some dog owners, alongside an inability to control their pets, has resulted in dog attacks on livestock in the North East costing an estimated £205,000 last year, up 21 per cent from 2022, latest figures from NFU Mutual reveal.

The statistics come as NFU Mutual’s latest survey of more than 1,100 dog owners found that more people let their dogs off leads in the countryside last year than in 2022. Less than half said their pet always came back when called.

Almost eight per cent admitted their dog chases livestock, but 46 per cent believed their dog was not capable of causing the death or injury of farm animals. More than half felt they did not need to take active measures to prevent their dog from chasing livestock.

If present at an attack, 57 per cent of dog owners said they would intervene to stop it, 22 per cent would report it to a local farmer and 11 per cent would call the police.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Sheep worrying by dogs. Picture: NSA

Across the UK, dog attacks on livestock were estimated to cost £2.4m last year, up nearly 30 per cent compared to the previous year.

The survey comes as the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill is making its way through parliament.

NFU Mutual welcomes the bill, which improves powers available to police for dealing with dog attacks on livestock.

Hannah Binns, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “The shocking increase in the cost of dog attacks on livestock is alarming news for farmers in the North-East, especially as the 2024 lambing season gets underway and pregnant ewes and newborn lambs are vulnerable.

“We’ve heard reports from farmers about the complacency and naivety of some dog owners, who regularly allow their pets to roam off-lead in the countryside, seemingly unaware of the carnage the dog could cause, then are horrified when an attack happens.

“There have also been incidences where dogs have chased, injured and killed sheep and the owner is nowhere to be seen.

“Farmers are also living in fear of repeat attacks, which cause horrific and needless suffering to livestock and can traumatise all involved dealing with the aftermath.

“All dogs are capable of chasing, attacking and killing farm animals, regardless of breed, size or temperament.

“We’re urging all dog owners to be responsible for their pets and to keep them on a lead when walked anywhere near livestock. If there is an attack, it is important people accept responsibility and report it to a local farmer and the police so the injured animals are not left suffering in pain.”