NORTH Yorkshire Police are reminding dog owners to keep their dogs on leads when around sheep, or they put their pet at risk of being shot by the landowner.

The Rural Task Force has asked police to issue advice following a recent incident in Farnhill and are urging dog walkers to take responsibility for their pets around sheep, especially as the lambing season has now started.

A police spokesman said: "Sheep worrying is a criminal offence and owners who allow their dog to carry out this activity could face a large fine or imprisonment. It includes attacking the animals physically, running after them or chasing the sheep around especially when they are carrying lambs – or are themselves young lambs. Dog faeces left on grazing land may also carry diseases that can kill sheep and affect unborn lambs.

"Walkers are being reminded to keep their dogs on leads and under control when they make their way through sheep fields. Ultimately a landowner is able to shoot a dog which they believe is worrying sheep – as a last resort for protecting livestock. Police must be notified within 48 hours if this course of action is taken.

Important advice for dog walkers:

• When walking dogs in fields containing sheep it is vital that you keep dogs on leads at all times.

• Loose dogs, regardless of how well behaved they would normally be, can get into the thrill of the chase and become uncontrollable very quickly.

• Sheep can easily be injured or killed, or if pregnant ewes are chased around a field by a dog it can cause the ewe to abort unborn lambs and later die itself due to medical complications."