THE National Sheep Association (NSA) has launched an extended campaign to highlight what it calls the 'devastating issue' of sheep worrying.

Traditionally, the NSA dedicates a week each spring to highlight the issue of sheep worrying by dogs, running alongside its year-round work to tackle the problem.

But with cases increasing at an alarming rate the sheep farming charity will run a series of online activities over an extended period of two weeks this year in 2021.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: "Sheep farmers across the UK have suffered an increase in sheep worrying attacks by dogs over the past year.

"[This is because] dog ownership has increased and walking in the countryside has become one of the few activities to be enjoyed during lockdown – but dog owners must be responsible for their pet.

“NSA is committed to ensuring the general public develops a better understanding of the stress and suffering that any dog, no matter its breed, can cause to sheep by barking, chasing and attacking them.

"It is a serious animal welfare issue that puts both sheep and much-loved pets at risk”

NSA will launch its 2021 campaign, titled #LeadOn, on Friday, April 30 by releasing the latest results from its farmers' survey.

The survey has broken all previous NSA survey records for the number of respondents sharing their experiences of attacks on their flocks during the past year, an early indication of the shocking scale of the problem.

It is hoped the campaign hashtag #LeadOn will be recognised as an encouragement to dog owners to be responsible and act as an example to others by keeping their pets on leads in the presence of livestock.

Sheep farmers are urged to use the simple but effective hashtag message in their own social media posts and are being encouraged to use #LeadOn on social media and share NSA's content to spread the message.

They are also being asked to register to attend webinars and workshops throughout the campaign and have positive conversations to encourage responsible dog ownership.