Advice for dog walkers in the countryside

Police are encouraging dog walkers to act responsibly whilst out with their dogs, particularly when around livestock.

If livestock are being worried by dogs it is a criminal offence. Dog owners have a responsibility to ensure that their animals are kept under control and whilst it is appreciated that the vast majority do so, there are a few that are still not getting the message.

Dog owners also need to recognise that a dog's actions reflect on the owner and a lack of control is neglect, and the consequences of neglect is a potential ban on keeping dogs/animals in future, and may result in the handler getting a criminal record.

Sgt Brian Calver of the Rural and Wildlife Crime Team said: “It’s the time of year in the countryside where cattle are turned out onto the pastures for the summer. Many of these fields have footpaths going through them. It’s against the law to have a dairy bull in a field with a footpath but beef breeds are allowed, with cows. 

“The greatest risk is from cows with calves. People must understand that their loving pooch is a natural predator in the eyes of livestock. When cows have very small calves, they’ll sometimes leave them hidden against tree lines or in long grass. If this is not known and somebody is walking towards it, the risks are increased hugely, as the cows natural instinct is to protect it’s young. All in all, common sense must prevail, with mutual consideration shown for those using the countryside for leisure and those that are trying to earn a living.”

In order to avoid these situations arising, police would urge the public to take extra care when out and about and always ensure your dog is secured on a lead whenever you’re near livestock.

Stick to the path and keep your dog on a lead. 

If the cattle are on the path, by all means deviate but consider ensuring you have an escape route. 

If chased, let your dog go as that’s generally what the cattle are after and the dog can run away a lot quicker than you.

Before entering the field, carry out a dynamic risk assessment and if in doubt, choose another route. 

Farmers are advised to consider creating permissible rights of way during the time the cattle are in the field and ensure clear signage is put up. If some herds are known to be of greater risk, consider creating safe areas for the public to walk through with extra fencing.