IT’S the time of year when dog attacks on livestock begin to hit the headlines and stark images of maimed or fatally injured lambs begin to appear with horrifying regularity.

But the devastation is a far broader, and often unseen, problem. Since 2013 there have been 325 dog attacks on livestock in North Yorkshire and nationally it is estimated to cost the industry £1.2m a year.

But it is also thought this could be the tip of the iceberg - many losses are unaccounted for. The shock of being chased by a dog can cause a pregnant ewe to lose her lamb – a farmer may never know if a stillborn lamb is the result of being chased by a dog.

The law on sheep worrying covers a wide range of behaviour from attacking livestock to failing to keep an animal under close control in a field of sheep - also a criminal offence.

North Yorkshire Police is one of four forces gathering more information about dog attacks on livestock, and the power they have to deal with them. If evidence supports it they will be presenting a case to a cross-party group of MPs calling for the law on dog control to be tightened.

The force has already highlighted some of the existing contradictions in the legislation.

While we have a law against sheep worrying, police don’t have the power to legally seize the dog involved and prevent another attack.

The current legislation also doesn’t apply to all the animals affected by dog attacks and while sheep worrying can cost a farmer thousands in lost or injured livestock, the maximum fine is court is £1,000.

Prosecution is a grey area, but it can only be welcomed it is about to be seriously scrutinised by police and parliament.