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Walking off the beaten track in Argyll. Credit: About Argyll Walking Holidays

Always be mindful not to disturb wildlife and sheep whilst out in the countryside. Credit: About Argyll Walking Holidays

Dog Walkers Warned to Take Extra Care Around Sheep

Heading out into the hills and taking your dog with you? In light of a recent spate of dog attacks on sheep and wildlife, Scottish Land & Estates and Ramblers Scotland have teamed up to urge dog-walkers to ensure that they keep their pets under proper control when they are out and about in the countryside.

Helen Todd, Development Officer with Ramblers Scotland commented “As the days lengthen and spring gets into full swing, there is nothing nicer than being out in Scotland’s wonderful countryside and enjoying a lovely walk with your dog.  However, dog-walkers should remember that sheep and wildlife can be easily 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 pay particular attention to 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.

Anne Gray, Access Policy Officer with Scottish Land & Estates added “Many animals and birds, whether domestic or wild, see dogs as a threat and this can cause them a great deal of stress and anxiety.  Spring is a particularly sensitive time of year since it is breeding season.  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 in an aggressive manner or not.  Stress of this type can sometimes lead to abortion or abandonment, which are perhaps consequences that go unseen by dog-walkers and I am sure are ones that most would not intentionally wish to create.  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.”

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