A Hertfordshire farmer has called for dog owners to keep their pets under control after worrying rise in attacks on sheep.

New figures from insurers NFU Mutual have revealed, nationally, farm animals worth an estimated £2.4 million were severely injured or killed by dogs in 2023, up nearly 30 per cent from the previous year.

There has also been a rise in incidents across Hertfordshire, including at a Hatfield farm owned Angus Mackay, who has seen around 25 of his sheep killed in dog attacks since 2016.

"Dog attacks continue to be a big issue for many farmers around here," he said.

"There is a serious financial impact on the business but, for me, the main concern is the suffering the sheep go through.

The Comet: Dog attacks on sheep are up nearly 30 per cent on last year.Dog attacks on sheep are up nearly 30 per cent on last year. (Image: NFU)

"We feel a real responsibility for the welfare and care of all our animals here, so it is awful to see what happens.

"This is upsetting for dog owners as well. Many don’t understand what their pets are capable of and how things can go badly, very quickly if they don’t have control of their dogs."

Under the Animals Act 1971, a dog could be shot if caught in the act of livestock worrying by a landowner, which includes barking, chasing, biting and killing.

NFU also found a rise in walkers letting dogs off the lead in the countryside, and Angus believes that a lack of understand about the law from new owners is behind the rise in attacks.

"I think the increase in dog ownership in lockdown is partially behind the rise in attacks. There are a lot of new dog owners, and some might not fully appreciate what can happen.

The Comet: New livestock worrying laws are set to be introduced.New livestock worrying laws are set to be introduced. (Image: NFU)

“The majority of dog owners are responsible and follow the rules. But it is important that everyone makes sure they keep their dogs on a lead around livestock and is aware of where their dogs are when they are out in the countryside.

"It’s important, also, for dog owners to make sure their gardens are secure as we’ve seen attacks from dogs getting loose from the home as well.

"We always look to prosecute to prevent future attacks from taking place."

The Government recently supported a bill to give police greater powers to tackle livestock worrying, including seizing dogs after serious incidents and enabling officers to take evidence samples from livestock and dogs to assist investigations.