FOLLOWING a “disturbing” attack in which a sheep’s leg was apparently gnawed down to the bone while still alive, a farmer has urged dog owners to keep their pets on leads.

The animal was found lying with its skin and flesh seemingly chewed off above the hock on its rear left leg.

Its owner, Richard Cornthwaite, who farms in the Lake District’s Winster Valley, had no choice but to take it home and kill it to put it “out of its misery”.

Mr Cornthwaite believed the injuries were inflicted by a “big, powerful dog”.

He said he had been told a wild animal such as a fox would have killed its prey first.

“It’s actually disturbing. Something has eaten over a pound of meat out of its back leg,” he added.

“It’s slightly concerning because that dog will attack anything in future.”

Mr Cornthwaite said he would now have to take a stricter line with dog walking on his land, having adopted a “liberal” approach in the past.

He added: “At the end of the day they [dog owners] haven’t got a divine right to let their dogs run across land.”

Andrea Meanwell, farming officer for the Lake District National Park Authority, said: “As a farmer myself I know first-hand how devastating this is, both in terms of animal welfare and also the economic and emotional impact this can have on local farmers. We’d like to take this opportunity to remind people to please keep their dogs under close control, and preferably on a lead at all times, in the Lake District.”

Richard Findlay, livestock board chairman at the National Farmers’ Union, said: “Farmers look after over 70 per cent of the UK’s countryside and many public footpaths cross through farmers’ land, so it’s vital that we establish measures to ensure both livestock, members of the public and their dogs are kept safe.

“Livestock worrying needs to be treated as a recordable crime. Dog owners must take responsibility for their dogs, keep them under control at all times and prevent them from straying. Farmers must report all incidents and the police must take these incidents seriously and investigate fully.

“We understand that owners must exercise their dogs, but we ask them to do this responsibly to prevent unnecessary suffering for our livestock.”