Worrying livestock, especially sheep during lambing season, is a very serious concern for farmers, the local authority in counties Armagh and Down has warned.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough (ABC) Council issued a warning to dog owners earlier this week on Monday, January 21, noting that over the course of a year it investigated 26 complaints of livestock worrying.

In a statement, the council said: "Whilst worrying of livestock can involve attacking or killing, it also includes the chasing of sheep or cattle.

"Chasing by dogs can do serious damage to livestock, even if the dog does not catch them.

The stress of worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die and pregnant ewes to miscarry their lambs causing financial loss to a farmer. This financial cost can be substantial, with the loss of valuable stock, veterinary care, abortions in attacked and frightened animals and damage to property.

Over the period April 2018 to March 2019, ABC Council received and investigated 26 complaints of worrying livestock, the local authority highlighted.

"Unaccompanied dogs and dogs not under control can be involved in livestock worrying incidents, ABC Council is reminding dog owners to act responsibly and ensure their dog is under control at all times and in particular kept secure at night."

Stressing the importance of responsible dog ownership, Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, cllr Mealla Campbell said:

“While we know that the vast majority of dogs are well looked after and are friendly, family pets, it should be recognised that it is every dog’s instinct to chase, meaning all dogs have the potential to inflict injury and to worry livestock.

This worrying of livestock especially sheep during lambing season is a very serious concern for farmers and we urge dog owners to always act responsibly by keeping their dog under control.

ABC Council reminded owners it has the authority to seize any dog (of any type and breed) suspected of being involved in worrying or attacking livestock, owners may be prosecuted for any offences and a court may order the dog to be destroyed.

A civil case may also be brought by the farmer for any financial loss suffered, the authority warned.