Dog owners are being warned that their pets could be killed if they are found anywhere near sheep, regardless of whether or not they have attacked them.
The warning comes at start of a national campaign by Police Scotland to highlight the devastating effects of livestock worrying.
Owners who walk their dogs in the countryside are being urged to keep their dogs under control. A dog attacking or chasing sheep, or even loose in a field where they are kept can lead to serious injury which can often lead to the sheep being killed or destroyed.
The campaign is being run in conjunction with the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, Scottish Natural Heritage, NFUS, Scottish Land & Estates and the Kennel Club,
Inspector Jane Donaldson, Police Scotland’s rural crime co-ordinator, said: “The worrying of livestock can have devastating consequences for farm animals and has an obvious financial and emotional impact on farmers and their businesses. This campaign is being launched to coincide with the spring lambing period because this is when sheep are at greatest risk.
“The vast majority of livestock worrying incidents involve sheep and can occur when a dog attacks, chases is or not on a lead or otherwise under close control in a field where livestock is kept. Pregnant ewes can abort their lambs or lambs can be separated from their mothers, causing distress and in some cases malnutrition.
“The advice is to ensure dogs are under control at all times and avoid going into fields where livestock is grazing. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code says dogs shouldn’t be taken into fields where there are lambs or other young farm animals.
“We are encouraging farmers and landowners to put signs up on gateways and on key roads and paths alerting them to the presence of sheep and lambs in their fields.”
Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland president said the increase in instances of livestock worrying are “disappointing”.
He added: “Particularly at this time of year, when there are young lambs all over the Scottish Countryside, we would urge dog owners to ensure they comply with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. The Union urges its members to consider shooting a dog worrying livestock as a very last resort, however I remind the public that this is a very real possibility if dogs are not under proper control.”