DOG owners are being warned to keep their pets under control during lambing season.

Sussex Police issued the warning which urges dog owners to keep their pets “on a lead of under close control” while near where sheep may be grazing amid a fear of sheep worrying.

Sheep worrying occurs when a dog chases or attacks a sheep in a way that may cause injury, suffering, abortion or loss of produce while in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep.

“Sheep worrying is illegal, and has serious effects including stress, injury, abortion and death. It also has a devastating impact on owners seeing their animals suffer from the ordeal and financial costs,” a police spokesman said.

“If you see sheep worrying happening – make the right call and dial 999.”

According to Crombie Wilkinson solicitors, the maximum penalty for the dog owner is a fine of up to £1,000 compensation and costs.

The police also have the powers to detain a dog suspected of worrying livestock if there is no owner present, and can also obtain a warrant to enter premises in order to identify a dog.

In November last year, nine sheep were killed and a further 140 suffered abortions after a spree of dog attacks in West Sussex.

Eight pregnant ewes were killed on Gumber Farm in Slindon on November 11after a “prolonged period of worrying” which has cost a farmer in excess of £1,500.

On the same day, a sheep was killed and two were injured during an attack at a farm in London Road, Washington.

Two husky dogs had escaped from a nearby garden, according to police. They were eventually captured by the shepherd and were taken to a Durrington Police Station in Worthing to be identified by their owner.

Earlier that month, three sheep died and a further nine suffered bite injuries, after being attacked by a dog in a field in Clothalls Farm, West Grinstead.