THE Malvern Hills Trust is urging dog owners to take extra care when walking their dogs on the Malvern Hills in the coming months to keep sheep safe.

The warning comes a week after a sheep-worrying incident, when a pair of walkers allowed one of their three dogs to chase and panic sheep on the Worcestershire Beacon.

A member of the public confronted the pair and the incident was subsequently reported to the trust.

Sheep on the hills and commons are now pregnant and expecting lambs in the spring.

At this time, sheep are particularly sensitive to disturbance and worrying by dogs.

Sheep being chased or attacked are at risk of aborting their lambs following the stress of such an incident.

The graziers who own the sheep, John and Suzanne Chance, said "We would like to thank the public and the staff of the Malvern Hills Trust for their help and support in keeping our livestock safe on the hills."

Beck Baker of the trust said: "Don't take the risk of a dog chasing sheep which could result in the loss of a sheep and a lamb. Please take a lead with you and use it when you're walking near the sheep and cattle on the hills and commons.

"Every year, we receive reports from the public and from the graziers that sheep and cattle have been chased and attacked by dogs. Livestock worrying is a criminal offence. To report livestock worrying by dogs, which includes chasing, on the hills or commons call the police on 101.

"Please also call the office on 01684 892002 so we can alert the grazier to attend. The faster the animal can receive emergency veterinary treatment the better its chances of recovery."

The hills and commons are registered common land, which means that certain local people have legal rights to put livestock onto the land to graze without notice. Members of the public should therefore be ready to encounter livestock anywhere and at any time.