Dog walkers are being reminded to keep dogs on leads at all times after a sheep was chased over a cliff in south Wales.

The sheep was rescued by RSPCA inspectors, who abseiled down the cliff face near Abereiddy, Pembrokeshire, before returning the animal uninjured to the flock.

RSPCA animal welfare officer Andrew Harris, who lead the rescue, said: “It could have been much worse for the sheep and the dog that chased it over the cliff edge.”

See also: ‘Sheep-wise’ highlights devastation of dog attacks

He added: “We urge people to take care around farm animals and ensure their dog is kept on the lead at all times when in or near fields containing livestock.”

The rescue comes amid increasing concern about the devastating effect that livestock worrying and dog attacks are having on sheep.

Livestock worrying is a criminal offence and the penalty can be six months imprisonment and a fine of up to £1000 for the dog owner or person in charge.

Keep dogs on leads

Wiltshire Police officer Marc Jackson urged dog owners to be responsible and keep all dogs on a lead when near livestock.

“If the public are out walking and they see livestock and they are not sure how their dog is going to react they could look for an alternative route round that area or place their dog on a lead.”

People needed to realise they many only see a small part of a field when entering it and there may be livestock out of sight or over the brow of a hill.

“We want people to go out there and enjoy the countryside,” he said. “If people are out using the public rights of way with a dog, use a bit of common sense.”

PC Jackson added: Use a lead if there is livestock around and don’t deviate from the footpaths as potentially they could be trespassing.”

Don’t assume dog won’t chase livestock

The NFU said dog owners should not assume their dog’s good nature and previous good behaviour meant it wouldn’t chase or attack livestock.

If your dog’s natural instinct to chase livestock kicks in, it could be too late before you realise anything is wrong.

Any risk of livestock worrying can be avoided by simply putting dogs on a lead. However, always release the lead if chased by cattle and get yourself to safety – your dog will get itself out safely.

NFU Wiltshire adviser Andi Witcombe said: “Livestock worrying is a significant and increasing issue for our farmers.

“There is a financial impact for businesses, a ewe might be worth £150-£200 and a lamb potentially £80- £100.

“If animals are killed there is a financial issue there, but if they are stressed and worried it can also affect their growth and fertility, causing long-term effects as well.”