THE British Veterinary Association is asking dog owners to support a new campaign and keep their pets on leads near livestock.
It comes as recent figures confirm that attacks have risen by more than 50 per cent in the past three years.
The campaign, spearheaded by the Farmers Guardian, aims to improve relationships in rural areas by encouraging walkers to keep dogs on a lead near livestock.
New figures, obtained by the farming publication from Freedom of Information requests to UK police forces, showed there were more than 1,000 attacks on farm animals by dogs last year – up from 691 in 2011.
Derbyshire was one of the areas with a high number of reported incidents in 2013, with more than 50 problems being recorded by the police.
Association president and vet Robin Hargreaves said: "These figures make disturbing reading for anyone with an interest in animal welfare.
"Our members see first hand the terrible consequences when dogs are not kept under control around livestock, especially during lambing season.
"Chasing and attacks can lead to serious injuries, fatalities and spontaneous abortion for sheep and other livestock.
"The results of these avoidable attacks are deeply distressing for the animal, the farmer and the vet.
"We don't want to discourage people from walking their dogs in the countryside.
"It's great exercise and has health benefits for both owner and pet. However, responsible ownership, including keeping dogs on a lead when necessary, is the cornerstone of good relationships between dog owners and farmers.
"It's important to always know where your dog is in rural areas as they can cause a lot of damage in a short time.
"Most owners are well meaning but, if a dog is out of sight, they may not even be aware of the chasing or attack.
"We're supporting this campaign to encourage dog owners in rural areas to keep their dogs on a lead when walking near livestock."
It is good practice for owners to keep dogs on leads at all times when walking near livestock, but it is particularly important during the spring.
Attacks early in the year often lead to lambs being lost and sheep being killed and injured.
General advice is that, if walkers feel threatened by larger livestock, then they should quickly release their dog before attempting to escape.