DOG walkers enjoying a stroll across the Quantock Hills over spring are being asked to ensure their pets do not attack livestock - or face seeing them shot on sight.

From March 1 to July 31 dog owners are required by law to keep their pets on a lead when being walked across Open Access land. In other areas of the countryside dogs should be kept under close control.

If a dog kills or harms livestock, the owner can be liable for a significant fine and for the value of the livestock harmed. The dog may also be dispatched, the cost of which the owner will have to pay.

Rebekah West, Quantock AONB Ranger, said: “If your dog is actually seen in action harassing livestock it could be shot on sight.”

Sheep worrying is a regular problem on the Quantocks, particularly in spring when sheep and lambs are at their most vulnerable.

Rebekah said it is not just physical attacks that cause harm but simply allowing a dog to chase sheep may cause ewes to abort or become injured.

She added: “I love dogs, but I have to remember that, no matter how unlikely it may seem to their owners, dogs have a natural instinct to chase and even in some cases hunt.

“Sheep, lambs and wildlife can easily be disturbed if the dogs, no matter how well trained, are not under very close control.

“Sadly there have been many times when Quantock Rangers have had to deal with the aftermath of dog attacks on sheep and in all cases I believe they could have been easily avoided - it's never easy visiting a farmer to tell them that their livestock has been injured or killed.”

Witnesses to an attack in progress should call 999. Any incidents witnessed should be reported to police on 0845 456 7000 or directly to the Quantock Hills AONB Office on 01823-451884.