- The countryside offers beautiful surroundings for our walks, but it is also where animals graze, in a farming environment.
- Be respectful of your surroundings, but ensure that you stay safe
At this time of the year, and especially with the weather picking up, many of us will be heading out to the countryside to walk our dogs. As responsible dog owners, we know that our dogs are obedient most of the time, but what about when they come across sheep or other animals on your rambles?
Follow the Country Code
When you visit a countryside location, with a responsibility to preserve these areas for future generations and do no harm to trees, plants, birds, or animals, it’s up to us to protect our countryside environments. Close all gates, keep to signposted pathways, and always take your litter home.
If you encounter livestock on your route
During the springtime, it’s especially important to give space to any livestock in the fields that may be rearing their young calves or lambs. If at all possible, avoid entering the field, or if no other route, keep to the edge of the field, walk quietly but quickly, and always have your dog on a lead. Avoid placing you and your dog in between the mother cow and her calf, but if you feel at all threatened by the cow, leave go of the lead and let your dog loose, as the cattle will usually go after the dog. Don’t run or panic! Most cattle that give chase will normally stop before they get to you. If you find that the cows begin to follow you and your dog, keep walking along quietly.
A sheep farmer can face a huge financial loss if any of his flock are attacked or killed, as the sheep represent a large part of his investment. Sheep worrying describes dogs chasing the sheep around or running after them or even an attack on the animals. It’s worse if the attack is on pregnant ewes or young lambs. There is also the danger from dog faeces left on the grass where the sheep graze, causing diseases that can affect unborn lambs and kill sheep. Sheep worrying is classed as a criminal offence and is taken very seriously by the Prosecution Service. Owners of dogs who do worry sheep could face imprisonment or large fines.
Advice for Dog Owners
When walking your dog in any rural location, we advise that responsible dog owners adhere to the following:
- Make sure your dog is under control at all times when around livestock
- Keep to public rights of way
- Be more aware during the lambing season and ensure your dog is on a lead at these times.
- If you are not confident your dog is good around people or animals, keep them on their lead and stay safe.
- Remember that farmers move their livestock around from field to field
- If a landowner is fearful for their livestock and needs to protect his animals, he is covered by the law to shoot a dog that they judge to be worrying their sheep. If this course of action is taken, the Police must be informed within 48 hours.
Above all, remember that farm animals are not pets! Do not stroke them or feed them. Make sure that your dog is under your close control at all times. Just because you think that your dog is perfectly Ok when near livestock, the livestock may see your dog as an actual threat. Stay safe!