New statistics estimate that the cost of dog attacks on farm animals across the North-East was up to £240,000 last year.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual conducted a survey of dog owners last month and the results showed that 64 per cent of dog owners were allowing their pets to roam free in the countryside, despite half of the owners admitting their dog doesn't always come back when called.

The research revealed that 42 per cent of dog owners have been walking their pets more often in the countryside during the pandemic, and that 81 per cent of respondents have noticed more people exercising their pets in rural areas.

As a result, the cost to farmers was estimated at £240,000, an increase of 113.5 per cent on the previous year.

“With millions more people walking in the countryside as Covid restrictions continue and an increase in dog ownership, we have seen many more horrific attacks resulting in large numbers of sheep being killed and a trail of horrific injuries,” said Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual.

“These attacks cause unbearable suffering to farm animals as well as huge anxiety for farmers and their families as they deal with the aftermath.

“It’s a critical time in the farming calendar and there is widespread concern as we enter the peak lambing season, that there will be a surge in new visitors who are simply unaware of the countryside code or how their dog will behave around farm animals.

“We want people to enjoy the countryside as it’s so important for people’s wellbeing. It’s vital that dog owners act responsibly and keep dogs on a lead at all times whenever there is a possibility livestock are nearby.”

Only 40 per cent of the dog owners surveyed accepted that their pet could cause injury or death of a farm animal.