Police are warning dog owners to keep their pets under control around livestock as lambing season gets underway.

The Wiltshire force is supporting the national Operation Recall week of action which highlights issues of livestock worrying to protect domestic and farmyard animals.

Superintendent Doug Downing, strategic lead for rural crime, said: “Weather permitting, we hope that you will be able to get out and enjoy the Wiltshire countryside this Easter weekend - but please be considerate and keep your dogs under control on a lead when walking anywhere near to livestock.

“We are in the peak season for lambing and the consequences of having ewes and lambs attacked or chased can have an emotional and serious financial consequence for farmers.

“It is a criminal offence and can mean the dog owner could face prosecution and a fine of up to £1000, in the most serious case.”

In Wiltshire, police receive an average of two reports of livestock worrying each month and believe that many more go unreported.

Officers are encouraging witnesses to report any attacks that they see happening.

Kate Salmon, Operation Recall lead for Naturewatch Foundation, said: “The consequences of attacks for all animals involved can be devastating.

“Some people go out for a walk with their dog, or unknowingly allow their dog to escape their property and return home without their family pet.

“With more awareness and self-responsibility, people can enjoy their pets, whilst keeping them and livestock safe.

“We’re calling for everyone to protect their dog and protect livestock.”

The RSPCA’s advice is to keep dogs on leads around livestock.

Geoff Edmond, national wildlife coordinator at the RSPCA, said: “No one wants to see animals suffer and whilst the vast majority of dog owners take care as a matter of course, sadly accidents can happen and even the most docile and obedient dogs can get distracted and excited by grazing animals.

“By listening to the advice and getting behind Operation Recall the public can end such unnecessary incidents. Some actions in life we can’t avoid. This one we can.’ The initiative began with national animal welfare charities, including Cheshire Police Rural National figures suggest that, as a consequence of dog attacks on farm animals, at least one dog is shot a week.

For more information about livestock worrying and how to report it, visit www.wiltshire.police.uk Anyone witnessing a dog worrying or attacking livestock should call 999, or 101 after an incident.