Dog on a lead near sheep© FLPA/John Eveson/Rex/Shutterstock

Sheep producers who have suffered the consequences of dog attacks on their flocks are being urged to take part in a new online survey by SheepWatch UK.

The group, which was launched in February in response to the growing problem of sheep worrying, is trying to establish a national picture about such attacks.

“We are trying to gather the figure for dog attacks in 2016 and so far we have records of over 900 dead sheep this year,” said SheepWatch UK organiser Terena Plowright.

I feel very passionately about this subject because of the welfare of the farmer, the dogs and of course the sheep Terena Plowright, SheepWatch UK organiser

See also: Farmers face abuse and anxiety over sheep worrying

“But we know that this is far from the absolute number. Many incidents go unreported and our figures don’t include unborn lambs or injured animals.

The survey, which takes just a couple of minutes to complete, seeks to build on the information gleaned so far.

It includes details of the number of sheep affected, if any dogs were killed, whether the police have been informed, whether a vet was involved and the type of fencing used.

“I feel very passionately about this subject because of the welfare of the farmer, the dogs and of course the sheep,” said Ms Plowright.

SheepWatch UK says its primary aim is to educate the general public to keep their dogs on leads near sheep, to help protect the national flock.

It is also asking farmers to put signs up to indicate that sheep are in the field.

And it wants to see fines imposed on dog owners if their pets are off leads in a field with sheep – regardless of whether it is chasing them.

Sheep farmers are encouraged to take part in the survey as part of the effort to build up a better picture of the problem.

The results are due to be shared at a national conference to be held in Loughborough on 3 June, intended to identify appropriate measures for tackling the problem.