Dog owners have been reminded to keep control of their dogs around sheep fields as lambing season gets underway.

This is to try and avoid an offence known as sheep worrying, which includes dogs attacking sheep or chasing them in a way that may cause injury, suffering, abortion or loss of produce.

It can also extend to a dog being at large (not on a lead or under close control) in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep.

In a post on their Facebook page about sheep worrying, Sussex Police said: "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."

They also encouraged people to ring up 999 if they saw sheep worrying taking place.

What is the punishment for sheep worrying?

According to Crombie Wilkinson solicitors the maximum penalty for the dog owner is a fine of up to £1000 compensation and costs.

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

What is the impact of sheep worrying on farmers?

The National Sheep Association describes the sheep as "valuable assets" as sheep worrying can cause them damage and threaten an income stream.

On their website they say: "It is vital that you keep your dog on the lead around livestock, even if you can usually trust it to come to call. 

"If you live in or near a farming area, you must make sure that your dog cannot escape from your property, as it may find its way onto land containing sheep."