An "alarmingly high" number of incidents involving dogs attacking pregnant sheep have been reported across Dumfries and Galloway this week.

Police are investigating after a number of ewes were killed, had to be put down, or lost their unborn lambs as a result of the attacks.

They said any disturbance by dogs to the pregnant ewes at this "sensitive time of year" can result in miscarriage.

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Dog walkers have been urged to avoid farmland occupied by sheep, use leads and stick to marked paths.

A statement posted online by Police Scotland read: "Officers are investigating an alarmingly high number of incidents across Dumfries and Galloway where dogs have attacked and seriously injured pregnant sheep over the last week, several resulting in the animals having to be humanely destroyed or losing their unborn lambs.

HeraldScotland: POLICE SCOTLANDPOLICE SCOTLAND

"At this particularly sensitive time of year, any disturbance by dogs to the pregnant ewes can risk miscarriage.

"Police Scotland, representing members of the Dumfries & Galloway Partnership Against Rural Crime, would urge dog walkers to avoid farmland occupied by sheep at this time of year, stick to marked and well used paths and use leads where there is a risk that dogs may come into contact with livestock."

Most livestock attacks happen when dog owners are not present and the dog has perhaps been let off the lead, has not obeyed commands or escaped from a garden.

And many of these incidents occur due to a mis-held belief that their person’s dog is not capable of attacking livestock.

"Your Dog - Your Responsibility"

Dog attacks on sheep and cattle in Scotland are estimated to cost Scottish agriculture more than £300,000 a year, insurer NFU Mutual said.

Last year, a campaign highlighting the “huge distress” caused by dogs worrying livestock was launched by police and partners in the rural community.

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The five-month multi-agency campaign “Your Dog – Your Responsibility” aimed to ensure dog owners understood how traumatic attacks can be for livestock, and highlight the emotional and financial impact such incidents can have on farmers and others involved.

The campaign was launched in Midlothian by the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) which is made up of partners from across the rural community, including Police Scotland, NFU Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates and NFU Mutual.

Chief Superintendent John McKenzie, who chairs SPARC, said at the time: “Tackling livestock attacks is an important issue and remains a priority for SPARC.

HeraldScotland:

“Further work requires to be done in highlighting not just the message about an owner or person responsible keeping a dog on a lead if there is livestock nearby, but a more general awareness message regarding responsible dog ownership, both in the home and when outside.

“To that end, SPARC is launching this campaign with key messages of of awareness raising, education and prevention.”

Karen Ramoo, of Scottish Land and Estates, added: “We want everyone to enjoy our countryside but it is important that dog owners exercise caution when it comes to our rural areas.

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“It is vitally important that owners understand the huge distress that is caused by dog attacks on livestock, whether it be the pain these animals suffer or the emotional and financial distress that can be caused to farmers.

“Despite high profile campaigns over many years we are still seeing too many incidents of livestock attacks and trauma in our rural areas, often where dogs are being let off the leash or being left unattended and escaping from homes and gardens.

“Many of these incidents occur due to a mis-held belief that their person’s dog is not capable of attacking livestock. Our message is to not take that risk and make sure your dog is well controlled throughout our countryside.”