Scottish Land & Estates and Ramblers Scotland are urging walkers, especially those with dogs, to ensure that they are vigilant and keep their pets under proper control when out and about in the countryside as animals begin to produce young following the slow start to spring.
Anne Gray, Policy Officer with Scottish Land & Estates said:
“The recent spate of late snow just before Easter has already had a devastating effect on sheep and wildlife across many parts of Scotland and many areas are still in recovery mode. We would ask those going out to enjoy the countryside over the coming weeks to be aware of this and make a conscious effort to avoid disturbing animals and birds as the breeding season starts.
“Many animals and birds, whether domestic or wild, see dogs as a threat and this can cause them a great deal of anxiety. In particular, parent animals and birds with young to protect can become very agitated by the presence of a dog. This can be the case whether a dog is behaving aggressively or not.
“The worst case scenario is of course when a dog attacks an animal or bird. It is worth bearing in mind that a farmer is well within his rights to shoot a dog that has attacked, or is about to attack, livestock. Avoiding fields of young farm animals and keeping dogs close and quiet in other sensitive areas is often all that is required to ensure a good walk doesn’t turn bad.”
Helen Todd, Campaigns & Policy Manager with Ramblers Scotland commented:
“Spring has been a long time coming this year, but as the days slowly start to warm there is nothing nicer than being out in Scotland’s countryside enjoying a lovely walk with your dog. However, dog-walkers should remember that livestock and wildlife can be spooked by the presence of a dog, so they should take particular care to minimise disturbance and keep dogs under proper control at all times.
“Dogs should not be allowed to run freely around livestock or where they will disturb wildlife. If any dog-walker is unsure of what responsible behaviour should be in these circumstances, they can follow guidance in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.”
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code gives the following simple, but very good advice. Scottish Land & Estates and Ramblers Scotland would urge all dog-walkers to be particularly aware of it at this time of year:
Don’t take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals;
If you go into a field of farm animals, keep as far as possible from the animals and keep your dog on a short lead or under close control.
During the bird breeding season (usually April to July), keep your dog under close control or on a short lead in areas such as moorland, forests, grassland, loch shores and the seashore.
If cattle react aggressively and move towards you, keep calm, let the dog go and take the shortest, safest route out of the field.
Pick up and remove your dog’s poo on farm land. Diseases which effect livestock can be passed on through dog poo.
It is a criminal offence to allow a dog to chase or attack sheep, other domestic livestock, poultry and wild animals or birds.