Livestock worrying incidents have increased in Devon and Cornwall throughout the month of May, according to Devon & Cornwall Police.

The force issued a reminder today (Tuesday, May 23) to the public to keep their dogs on leads when visiting Devon and Cornwall’s open spaces this bank holiday (May 29).

Livestock worrying, the force warned, is a criminal offence and can have a “devastating impact” on farmers, livestock and, in some circumstances, the dog and its owner.

Livestock worrying incidents can be instances where a dog attacks and injures livestock, but Devon & Cornwall Police highlighted that just as much damage and stress can be caused by a dog chasing livestock, without ever making contact with the animal.

Rural affairs officer for Devon & Cornwall Police, PC Chris Collins, said: “We are hoping that by encouraging people to respect our countryside and communities this bank holiday we can also ensure responsible dog ownership and remind people of the law.

“All land is owned, and access is not a given right, so it is important that users of the countryside understand specific designations of land and ‘rights of way’.”

For example, Collins said, on land which is designated as ‘access land’, a dog must be on a lead between the dates of March 1 and July 31, and at all times when livestock are present.

“Allowing dogs to chase or attack livestock is a criminal offence,” he warned.

“Take notice of local signage, respect wildlife and any livestock around you, keeping your dog on a lead to protect livestock and ground nesting birds.”

“If you witness an attack on livestock, do not intervene, keep yourself safe and call 999. All other information relating to attacks on livestock should be reported to the police online or by calling 101”.