CUMBRIA’S farming community is urging people to keep dogs on a lead to avoid 'needless and preventable' deaths as the vital lambing season approaches.

Farmers in Grange are all too aware of the problem of 'sheep-worrying' with one, Trevor Wilson, reporting two dog attacks in the last month at his sheep farm with 'heart-breaking' consequences.

"Lambing season for us is absolutely massive", he said.

"We've had two dog attacks in the last two months and our neighbour had 27 sheep killed last year as a result of one.

"Last Thursday we were just having our breakfast, and a dog came shooting across, it chases one (sheep) down, it rolls a few times, chases after another one, which knocks itself out, right in front of our eyes.

"The lambs probably won't survive now.

“If you had a dog that tended to bite people, you wouldnt let it run riot among 240 8-month pregnant women would you?

"It's not just what they kill, it's what they chase, and smother - utter carnage takes minutes.

"You get displaced lambs, umbilical cords snapped, it makes us very paranoid at this time of year, as a dog can do a hell of a lot of damage."

"This is a lovely place, and we've never stopped anybody walking or playing  down there – all we ask is to please obey the signs and keep your dog on a lead."

NFU (National Farmers Union) Chairman Ian Bowness said: "Cumbrian farmers are proud of what they do in the countryside and want to share it with visitors.

"However, it’s important we have respect on both sides.

"We've all heard people say their dog would never dream of chasing a sheep.

"But let me tell you that every dog has that instinct and to them it is just a game.

"Nearly 15,000 sheep are killed yearly by dog attacks.

"These are needless and preventable deaths which can be avoided if dogs are kept on a lead.

"All we ask is a little thought to prevent an animal suffering and loss to a hard-working farmer.

“Please keep your dog under control or, even better, on a lead at all times.

"There may be stock grazing that you can't see.

"Let's work together so needless sheep deaths don’t happen in Cumbria."