Dog on lead in sheep field©John Eveson/Rex Shutterstock

Dog attacks on sheep are unacceptably high – and far more frequent than many people believe, police have warned.

The North Wales Police rural crime team is using specially collated data to tackle the problem of sheep worrying in the region.

See also: Eleven sheep killed in ‘tragic’ dog attack

Police said the gathering of accurate daily statistics revealed the true extent of dog attacks on sheep, which was an underreported issue nationally.

There were 108 separate incidents recorded over the past 12 months in north Wales alone – with most involving more than one sheep.

The county with the highest incidents is Gwynedd with 27 recorded, nearly three times that of the Wrexham County, which had 10 incidents.

The average number of attacks is nine a month. In one incident, more than 30 sheep were attacked by a Rottweiler in Buckley.

Police constable Dave Allen of the rural crime team said; “At an early stage we identified that this was a problem for our farming communities, with many incidents going unreported and farmers often losing thousands of pounds, which is clearly unacceptable.”

The statistics also reveal that most attacks are likely to take place on a Friday – with substantially more than on a Monday – but it unclear why this is the case.

Sergeant Rob Taylor said; “As a team we needed to decide what the real issues are with rural crime and we have achieved this by recording accurate daily statistics for all manner of incidents.

“This has led to significant drops in all rural incidents in North Wales, including sheep attacks

“We have found that the only answer with such attacks is to take a zero-tolerance approach with irresponsible dog owners. This has led to court cases and heavy fines.

“A dog owner recently lost an appeal against an order for both her dogs to be destroyed following a particular nasty incident in Flintshire.”

PC Allen added: “It’s sad when dogs have to be destroyed through a court order, but we have found time and time again that once a dog attacks sheep it will attack again if given the chance.”

The North Wales Police Rural Crime team was established in September 2013 and is only one of a handful of dedicated teams in the UK.

Their methods and results have drawn international attention, with the head of Victoria Police Rural Crime in Australia due to visit the team in July to see their work at first-hand.