A west Wales farmer has spoken of a devastating dog attack on his sheep as new figures from NFU Mutual reveal attacks on Welsh livestock cost an estimated £883,000 last year, more than double the 2022 cost (£439,000).

The survey also shows complacency among some dog owners alongside an inability to control their pets.

The shocking statistics comes as NFU Mutual’s latest survey of over 1,100 dog owners released found more people were letting their dogs off leads in the countryside last year than in 2022, 68% and 64% respectively.

Worryingly, less than half (49%) said their pet always comes back when called. More than half (54%) felt they did not need to take active measures to prevent their dog from chasing.

The survey comes as the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill is making its way through parliament. NFU Mutual welcomes this Bill, which improves powers available to police for dealing with dog attacks on livestock.

Over 80 sheep were killed in two frenzied attacks on Alun James’ Llangadog farm in spring 2023.

In the first attack some of the surviving sheep’s’ jaws were so badly injured that they couldn’t eat, and they had to be put down. Other sheep and lambs were driven into the nearby river where some drowned. Altogether, 36 sheep were killed in the first attack.

Six weeks later another attack took place in the same grazing ground. Fifty sheep were killed or swept away in the river despite Alun’s desperate efforts to save them from drowning.

“The attacks were horrific and left us shaken to the core,” said Alun. “My mother saw the dog attacking our sheep and breaking their necks by tossing them into the air.

“As well as causing horrific suffering, it’s left us in a state of shock.

“We’re in a remote area and have not had dog attacks for a long time - the last I can remember was over 40 years ago."

Owen Suckley, NFU Mutual Wales Manager, said: “The shocking increase in the Welsh cost of dog attacks on livestock is incredibly alarming news for farmers, especially as the 2024 lambing season gets underway and pregnant ewes and newborn lambs are vulnerable.

“We’ve heard reports from farmers about the complacency and naivety of some dog owners who regularly allow their pets to roam off-lead in the countryside, seemingly unaware of the carnage the dog could cause, then are horrified when an attack happens.

“There have also been incidences where dogs have chased, injured and killed sheep and the owner is nowhere to be seen.

“Farmers are also living in fear of repeat attacks, which cause horrific and needless suffering to livestock and can traumatise all involved dealing with the aftermath.

“All dogs are capable of chasing, attacking and killing farm animals, regardless of breed, size or temperament.

“We’re urging all dog owners to be responsible for their pet and keep them on a lead when walked anywhere near livestock. If there is an attack, it is important people accept responsibility and report it, to a local farmer and the police, so that the injured animals are not left suffering in pain.”