Following a big increase of dog attacks on sheep, including on Dartmoor, Devon & Cornwall Police ​is backing a campaign aimed at preventing deaths and injuries to livestock.

Between 27 March and 2 April, Devon & Cornwall Police are supporting Op Recall - a national operation launched by Cheshire Police, the RSPCA and Naturewatch Foundation which aims to raise awareness of the impact of livestock worrying, and prevent future livestock attacks.

During 2023, Devon & Cornwall police received 140 reports of attacks on livestock. As a result of these attacks hundreds of sheep were killed either during the attack or later, as a result of the extensive injuries they received.  

One major attack happened earlier this month on livestock at Langford Farm, Lamerton, near Tavistock. when 23 lambs were killed. Ewes were savaged as they tried to protect their lambs.

The report stated that South West region was the worst-hit region, with attacks estimated to have cost £359,000. The warning comes as deaths and injuries to livestock cost farmers an estimated £359,000 in the South West of England in 2023, up 31% from the previous year, latest figures from NFU Mutual reveal.

One Devon farmer says he has lost up to 80 ewes and lambs to dog attacks, and thinks dog licences should be reintroduced. Across the UK, the estimated cost of livestock worrying soared by nearly 30% to £2.4 million last year.

More people were letting their dogs off leads in the countryside last year than in 222. Less than half said their pet always came back when called.

Rural affairs officers and local policing teams will be supported by special constables and volunteers to advise on reducing livestock attacks.

Cornwall Rural Affairs Officer, Police Constable Julian Fry said: “We expect lots of people will be out during lambing season underway, we all need to protect livestock.

“Whilst the vast majority of dog owners are responsible, sadly, accidents can happen and even the most obedient dogs can get distracted and excited by grazing animals, leading to an attack.

Livestock worrying is a criminal offence. It is also an offence if a dog is not on a lead or under close control in a field or enclosure of sheep.

Dog owners are reminded farmers have the right to take appropriate action to protect their livestock from attacks, and the owner of dogs chasing or attacking livestock could receive six months' imprisonment and/or a fine. Wiitnesses to an attack on livestock are advised not to intervene and to call 999. Information on attacks on livestock that are not currently happening should be reported to the police online or by calling 101. Anonymous information can also be provided to CrimeStoppers online or by calling 0800 555 111.