DOG owners have been urged by a community leader to keep their pooches on a tight leash in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Cllr Alan Dowden, who represents Valley Park on the borough council, warned owners increase their risk of contracting COVID-19 if they are forced to stop their dogs fighting with another.

Mr Dowden claims owners having to prise canines apart forces them into close contact with one another, accidentally breaking social distancing rules.

He said: "The area I live in Valley Park, so many people seem to have dogs and I see a lot of owners let them off their leads, but the trouble is when another dog approaches a dog it gets out of control.

"The last thing an owner wants is their dog getting attacked, but this is another way of passing on the virus as the owners get close together.

"It would be a good idea for the public to reflect on the consequences of this because just one person who has coronavirus making contact with someone else could result in thousands being affected."

He added: "This virus is such a serious one and it seems to me it will cause a depression, so I am sure the public will take it on board as they probably have not thought about it themselves.

"The virus seems to be so contagious and it is terrifying, it could even put more pressure on the NHS because we are asking people to stay apart to stop more people being infected with coronavirus.

"But they could contract it by accident if owners get too close together, because they want to protect their dogs.

"So for goodness sake, keep your dog on a leash."

This comes as figures show that Hampshire has had another 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus since Thursday, according to the Public Health England.