The National Sheep Association (NSA) is urging ministers to take advantage of current legislation passing through parliament and legislate to put a stop to incidents of sheep worrying by dogs.

NSA believes the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill currently progressing through its various parliamentary stages offers a prime opportunity to bring much needed action.

“Simply including the instruction for dogs to be on a lead when in the proximity of, or likely to come into contact with grazing livestock, would reduce these terrible incidents and by increasing the fines would act as a deterrent for irresponsible dog owners who do not keep their dogs under control,” said NSA chief executive Phil Stocker.

NSA has said that the government's continuation to ignore the stressful impact of dog attacks on sheep - and the mental welfare of sheep farmers and keepers as a result - is "ludicrous".

NSA has applauded the current actions taken in Scotland to strengthen legislation regarding this issue.

"We are extremely pleased to see the recent strengthening of Scottish legislation relating to sheep worrying by dogs," said Grace Reid, NSA Scottish region coordinator.

Ministers across the nations are urged to welcome an equal approach if they are able to do so. However, it is clear much more education and responsibility is required when accessing the countryside to prevent the use of strengthened powers.

"In its simplest form, each dog owner should have complete and total control over their dog at all times and this sadly is not the case.”