There has been a shocking rise in the cost of dog attacks on farm animals - 50 per cent more in just the first quarter of this year.

The rural insurer which has released these alarming statistics notes that numbers started to rise sharply last year when farm animals worth an estimated £1.3million were attacked by dogs – a rise of more than 10 per cent on 2019.

READ MORE: Pregnant Jersey cow and her unborn calf killed in dog attack in Dorset

Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at the insurer, said: “NFU Mutual’s latest figures confirm the harrowing reports coming in from across the UK of livestock horrifically injured and killed by out of control dogs.

"The suffering to animals and the anxiety for farmers could be easily prevented if people kept their dogs on a lead when out in the countryside.”

A surge in lockdown pets and countryside visits, along with a lack of awareness about how dogs will behave around farm animals, are believed to be driving the rise.

As a consequence, there are growing concerns that out of control pets will continue to wreak havoc over the summer.

Only a week ago a pregnant Jersey cow and her unborn calf were killed in a dog attack in Dorset.

At the end of May, a pregnant Highland cow, Gladis, and her full-term calf were also killed following a dog attack.

The owner is now petitioning for a change of law that would mean that all dogs would have to be on leads when near livestock.

READ MORE: Gladis's Law: Dorset farmer launches petition after Highland cow chased to death

According to the insurer's research conducted with more than 1,200 dog owners, 64 per cent say they let their dog run free off the lead.

Of a greater concern is that half admit that their pet doesn’t always come back when called.

Rebecca added: “There’s a lack of awareness amongst dog owners about what their pets are capable of and our research found only 40 per cent accepted their dog could injure or harm livestock.

"Even if a dog doesn’t make physical contact, the distress of the chase can also cause sheep to die, miscarry and separate lambs from their mothers.

"Farm animals are also being chased into danger – drowning in rivers, falling from cliffs and getting their necks trapped in fencing."