DOG owners in the New Forest have been told to keep their pets under control following an increase in attacks on livestock.

The Verderers have spoken out following a spate of incidents - one of which took place when a group of up to nine dogs were being exercised in the Forest.

A forest keeper saw one of the dogs chasing a calf at Wilverley, near Brockenhurst.

The Official Verderer, Lord Manners, said: "The keeper was able to speak to the owner and the matter was reported to the police, who have also spoken to the person responsible.

"I’m glad to say the owner has agreed to walk less dogs at any one time – up to nine were being walked – in order to have greater control.

"The police have made it clear that should this happen again, or if livestock is injured, they will consider issuing a dog behaviour order. In the worst case they will seek an order for the destruction of the offending dog.

"A second incident involving a dog chasing a foal at Janesmoor was also reported to police and again the owner of the dog has been spoken to.

"In a third incident, an Alsatian was witnessed chasing a big group of ponies, making some of them run across a road not far from Ferny Crofts.

"The two women with the dog were trying to call it back."

Lord Manners said the incident was reported to police and New Forest District Council, which had different powers and in some cases could impose penalties more quickly and effectively.

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Speaking at the Court of Verderers in Lyndhurst he cited a "worrying increase" in cases of dogs chasing and attacking livestock.

The peer said animals were being killed or injured and warned that the issue could result in livestock behaving "much more unpredictably" around people.

He added: "Please keep your distance from stock at all times, especially if you have a dog.

"I urge all dog walkers not only to behave responsibly themselves, but also to do whatever they can to encourage other dog walkers to do likewise, for the benefit of all."

In April a donkey suffered horrific facial injuries and needed a two-hour operation after being attacked by a dog at Penn Common, near Bramshaw.

A few weeks later a similar incident at Ogdens, near Fordingbridge, left a two-day-old foal with huge gashes to its throat.