A FARMING couple who found one of their sheep mauled to death have pleaded with dog walkers to keep their animals on a lead.

The sheep was found at Wittenham Clumps near Wallingford last Monday with a leg torn off and its innards spilling out.

A passer-by called farmers Dan and Lauren Marriott, who went to the scene but found they were too late to save the animal.

They say it is the fourth case of one of their sheep being attacked by a dog since they started running the farm in October.

Now they have put out a plea for dog walkers to keep their animals under better control.

Mrs Marriott, 28, said: “This was such a severe attack the sheep had its insides ripped out.

“It has probably died from shock or its injuries pretty quickly.

“It costs us up to £350 every time we lose a sheep, but it’s also quite heart-wrenching.”

Allowing an animal to attack livestock like sheep is a criminal offence, but so far the Marriotts have not reported any of the attacks to police.

Instead, they are hoping to appeal to the good nature of dog walkers.

She said: “People don’t want to even consider that their dog would do something like that, which is ignorant.”

Mr Marriott, 33, said: “When a sheep dies it is always very upsetting. But when that death could have been avoided and is so brutal, it is all the more distressing.

“We urge dog walkers to be responsible and keep their pets on a lead whilst walking in fields where the sheep are grazing – and encourage others to do the same.”

The most recent incident before last Monday’s incident, occurred shortly before Christmas. The couple said two sheep, both pregnant, were attacked by the same dog. One sheep had eight bite marks in its flesh.

A volunteer warden for the Earth Trust, which owns the land the farm is on, happened to spot the sheep in trouble.

Mrs Marriott said: “He found them and was very distressed, but we managed to save those sheep by stitching them back together.”

The Earth Trust backed calls for dog walkers on Wittenham Clumps to make sure their animals were on a lead.

Spokesman Kirsty Warren said: “Sheep disturbed by dogs often die from injuries.

“At this time of the year many sheep are carrying lambs, or have lambs at foot and any stress caused by dogs, usually results in a painful death of both sheep.

“Please keep your dogs on leads where sheep are grazing to reduce stress to the animals, and to prevent unnecessary deaths.”