Urgent warnings have been issued by North Yorkshire Police to dog walkers as an attack this week highlighted farmers’ worst fears in lambing season.
The field where the two-week-old lamb was attacked is located in Bewerley on the road to Bewerley Outdoor Centre.
Although the lamb itself, owned by local farmer Trevor Stoney, is expected to survive, it sets a worrying tone for Nidderdale farmers as lambing season gets into its full stride.
Trevor’s son Richard said: “Around lunch time a man was walking his dog on a lead along the road when he saw a couple with a dog off the lead walking along the same road.
“A lamb was close to the fence in the field adjoining the road. The dog off the lead was seen to go towards the lamb which ran off into the field.
“The man who was walking his dog on the lead thought the dog had just scared the lamb so that it ran off.
“From the account given it is possible the couple with the dog off the lead did not even realise the lamb had been injured.”
The latest incident comes just two months after a man was convicted of sheep worrying in Dacre.
After the trial, the National Farmers Union urged dog owners to ensure their pets don’t panic or attack sheep as farmers prepared for the lambing season.
There have been signs this year that dog attacks are becoming more common as the weather brightens in what has been largely a mild winter.
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The countryside is a delicate place at this time of year both for sheep and ground nesting birds.
Gam Farm, a rare breed sheep farm at Grassington, tweeted on Saturday: “Ophelia, our beautiful Boreray.
“Hand reared, so loved and in lamb for the first time. Brutally savaged by dogs last night in Grassington. Absolutely heartbroken.”
A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Police said that sheep worrying was a criminal offence and owners who allow their dog to carry out this activity could face a large fine or imprisonment.
The spokesperson said : “Dog-owners need to take responsibility for their animals – not just by putting their dogs on a lead when out walking, but by preventing them from escaping from home and causing damage to livestock.
“We also need livestock owners to report incidents so that we can gather intelligence and launch investigations. We’d urge everyone to call 101 with any information.”
North Yorkshire Police Beat Manager, PC Sue Dent, said: “We live in a beautifully rural area and have many dog walkers who enjoy the country walks.
"But the reality is that sheep being worried by loose dogs causes issues not just for the animals and the farmer but also for other walkers who come across the bodies of sheep who have been attacked and then left to suffer a slow and painful death."
Sergeant Kevin Kelly, who is an acting inspector and who won the Wildlife Law Enforcer of the year award nationally in 2017, is also keeping a record of all such incidents in his role as North Yorkshire police’s wildlife officer.