Officers at a rural police force say they have already dealt with five livestock worrying within the first four weeks of the year.

One particularly gruesome incident reported to Dorset Police saw a sheep left barely alive with one of its legs "almost completely severed".

Two other sheep were killed in the same attack in Holwell, which is thought to have taken place sometime between 1:00pm on January 22 and 8:00am on January 23.

A spokesman for Dorset Police said: "So far this year we have received five reports of livestock worrying and attacks.

This was due to people not putting their dog on a lead when around livestock or not having the correct secure fencing around their homes where dogs have then escaped and gone on to farmland and attacked sheep.

"If you’re out walking the dog on agricultural land and it worries livestock you are committing the offence of livestock worrying."

Livestock worrying

Livestock worrying is a criminal offence under the Protection of Livestock Act 1953 and does not require an animal to be injured.

Allowing a dog to be off a lead or otherwise not under close control in a field or enclosure of sheep is an offence.

The penalty for livestock worrying can be six months' imprisonment and a fine of up to £1,000.

An officer explained that while worrying is traditionally thought of as a dog biting or attacking livestock, it also includes:

  • Chasing livestock in such a way as may be reasonably expected to cause injury or suffering; in the case of ewes, this includes abortion or loss or reduction in the number of offspring she has.
  • Not having a dog on a lead or under close control when close by, or in a field or enclosure with livestock.

If you see anything suspicious call '101'. Or if you see a dog worrying or attacking livestock please call police on: 999.