A rise in reports of sheep worrying is causing concern for farmers across East Ayrshire, with dog walkers being reminded to keep their dogs under control when around the animals.

Police Scotland’s rural crime section is working with officers from the council to address these issues but the council is also appealing to residents for help in keeping their own dogs under control. Sheep can lose their lambs if they are put under stress and this can have a significant impact on farmers’ livelihoods.

Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, if a dog worries sheep on agricultural land, the person in charge of the dog is guilty of an offence. The definition of worrying sheep includes attacking sheep, chasing them in a way that may cause injury or abortion and a dog being off the lead or not under close control in a field or enclosure with sheep.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code also clearly lays out the responsibilities of people enjoying the local countryside with their dogs and has issued advice for those walking near sheep.

This advice includes not taking your dog into a field where there are lambs but instead going into a neighbouring field or onto adjacent land. In open country, keep your dog on a short lead when there are lambs around and keep away from them.

The SOAC also reminds dog owners that in some cases a farmer has the right to shoot a dog that is attacking their livestock.

If you have any concerns contact Animal Welfare (Environmental Health) on 01563 553538, email environmentalhealth@east-ayrshire.gov.uk or contact Police Scotland on 101.