Police forces recorded fewer instances of dog attacks on sheep in 2019 than on the previous year, the first decrease since 2012.
The reduction has been attributed to initiatives such as FG’s Take the Lead campaign which raises awareness among dog owners in the national media and warning signs being visible throughout the countryside.
Data from 30 out of the UK’s 45 police forces which responded to FG’s Freedom of Information request showed there were 805 incidents of dogs chasing, attacking or killing sheep in 2019, down from 1,164 in 2018 and 1,047 in 2017.
However, farm groups warned while the results were encouraging, there was still more work to be done, with NFU Mutual estimating the cost to the farming industry at £1.2 million (down 0.3 per cent on 2018).
The insurer has also predicted a rise in attacks in the first quarter of 2020, with walkers ’unfamiliar with the countryside’ taking to rural areas to exercise during the coronavirus lockdown.
Farmers Union of Wales senior policy officer Hazel Wright said: "While this reduction is welcome news, one attack on livestock is one too many.
"The laws covering dog attacks on livestock must be updated to fit the seriousness of the offence and we continue to push for legislative change in order to further protect our members and to help drive a further decline in the number of dog attacks."
Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru ivestock board chairman, urged people to put their dogs on a lead at all times when around livestock, adding: "We need the cooperation of the public to help to eliminate sheep worrying, and ask responsible walkers and dog owners to report those who transgress."
North Wales, which has been a key force in raising awareness and bringing prosecutions against people whose dogs attack farm animals, has seen incidents drop from 129 in 2018 to 49 in 2019.
South Wales Police saw a reduction from 44 incidents in 2018 to 38 in 2019, with Gwent similarly seeing a fall from 21 to 19.
There were also reductions in Cleveland, down from 11 in 2018 to three in 2019, Cheshire down from 42 in 2018 to 21 in 2019, Greater Manchester from 26 to 14 and Nottinghamshire from 14 to nine.
Durham, West Yorkshire and Cumbria forces all recorded the highest number of incidents in 2019, with 62. Lancashire recorded 52, Dorset 51, Devon and Cornwall 49, and Police Service of Northern Ireland 36.
Police Scotland recorded 160 incidents in 2019, up from 159 in 2018.
Across the force’s 15 areas, the Borders saw the most attacks with 41, the North East second with 21, Highlands and Islands third with 21 and Lanarkshire fourth with 20.
Farmers Guardian's 'Take the Lead' campaign continues to raise awareness of sheep worrying incidences caused by dog attacks.
The campaign, launched in April 2014, has gained huge industry backing over its time, helping to raise awareness among the British public about livestock worrying and speaking up for our readers’ concerns.
More than 60,000 free signs have been sent out, spurring awareness not seen before in regards to livestock worrying.