TODAY the Darlington & Stockton Times launches a campaign called Lead the Way, demanding action to prevent dog attacks on livestock.

Social media has its critics, but in recent weeks, it has helped to demonstrate the gruesome aftermath of such incidents, highlighting just how serious this problem has become, and the toll it is taking on farmers and their animals.

In a bid to halt these attacks, we have joined forces with our sister publications The Northern Echo and The Northern Farmer to spread the message to the widest audience we can. Our campaign aims to educate dog owners about the impact of letting their beloved pets run loose among livestock, and how important it is dogs are housed securely in their absence – many attacks involve lone dogs. We also want to encourage farmers to report every attack to police so a more accurate picture of the problem can be built up, and more resources allocated to investigate and prosecute owners where possible.

Finally we are backing the recommendation of a national police report into the issue calling for significant updates to the law. We say legislation must be changed to make it compulsory for dogs to be on a lead around livestock, not just under “close control” as it states at present.

A change in the law is vital to send a clear message to dog owners what damage can be caused – not just financially but in terms of suffering to livestock and emotional trauma to farmers. It would also remove any uncertainty for owners about their responsibilities when in the countryside.

Too many animals are being lost to these horrifying attacks. Through Lead the Way, we are taking a stand to try and make this stop.