An animal welfare officer has spoken of her shock at the massacre of about 20 sheep by what is thought to be a dog.

The attack happened on Sunday (February 4) on livestock fields at Langford Farm, Lamerton. The evidence appears to show that a large dog was responsible for attacking 23 lambs and killing them. The ewes were also been savaged as they tried to protect their lambs.

The attack comes at a particularly sensitive time for farmers as it is the lambing season when vulnerable lambs are outside.

Dartmoor wildlife officer Karla McKechnie said: “This is a horrific attack by what appears to be a large dog, judging by the size of the paw prints and injuries to the sheep.

“This is a particularly sensitive time of the year for livestock farmers - it’s lambing season and there are lots of lambs out there in fields where the farmers would expect their animals to be safe and protected.

“This is the worst example of a dog attack I have seen. The lambs have been killed outright by the dog, although it looks like there were possibly two dogs, judging by the scale of the attack. Then the ewes would have protected their lambs and have sustained facial injuries in the process and had to be put down.

“This horrific for the animals and very upsetting for the farmer. It’s going to take some time for him and his father to get over this.”

Karla said the number of dog attacks was on the rise with 18 incidents reported to her this year and 95 last year: “Dog owners should know the capabilities of their dogs and keep them under control appropriately if there is potential for them to carry out something like this.”

She urged anyone to report incidents and sees dead animals to report them to her on 07873587561.

Devon and Cornwall Police in Tavistock confirmed the attack. A spokesman said: “We are investigating reports of 19 ewes and 24 lambs having been killed overnight on farmland near Tavistock on Sunday 4 February.

The sheep are believed to have been attacked by a dog or dogs. Officers have spoken to the landowner and enquiries are ongoing.

If you have any information that could help with enquiries, please contact police via our website here or by calling 101 quoting 50240028542.