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Easter dog walkers urged to be careful around sheep

17th April 2014

With lambing season well underway, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Ramblers Scotland and land management organisations, Scottish Land & Estates and NFU Scotland, are asking dog walkers to be aware of vulnerable young lambs when they’re out walking over the Easter holiday weekend.

At this time of year, dogs chasing sheep are a particular danger to pregnant ewes and lambs.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code has plenty of good advice for dog walkers:

Don’t take your dog into a field where there are lambs – or calves or other young animals. Walk through a neighbouring field or in the land next to it.

In more open country, keep your dog on a short lead and under close control when there are lambs about and keep your distance from them.

Your dog should be close at heel and responsive to your commands when livestock are around. Stay distant from the sheep to stop them from being scared, running away and being separated from their young.

Theresa Kewell of SNH said:“It’s great to be outdoors with your dog at this time of year, and we have some of the best access rights in the world in Scotland. But the safety of both your pet and Scotland’s livestock is also important: be aware that your dog could be frightening sheep and endangering lambs, so keep control of your dog and stay out of fields with livestock whenever possible.

Anne Gray of Scottish Land & Estates said:"Farmers and other land managers understand how important a good walk in the countryside with a four legged friend is to many people. The key to enjoying the countryside in this way without causing problems for farmers and wildlife is to be selective about where you let your dog go for a run off lead and where you are careful to keep your dog by your side. For off lead runs pick places away from livestock and, particularly in the spring and early summer, avoid places where ground nesting birds are likely to be. The Outdoor Access Code gives good advice to help you identify these places."

Helen Todd of Ramblers Scotland said:“Walking your dog is a great way to get outdoors regularly and keep active, and most dog owners are very responsible. However, it’s also true that some owners just aren’t aware of the disturbance that their pets can cause to wildlife and livestock, especially at this sensitive time of year. Guidance in the Code is clear and helpful, and all dog owners should make sure they are familiar with the advice, and keep their dog under proper control at all times.”

NFU Scotland Policy Manager Gemma Thomson said:"There can be few more distressing sights for any Scottish farmer than than discovering sheep or lambs that have been attacked by dogs. Unfortunately, incidents of sheep worrying by dogs continue to be reported. We urge all those taking walks in the countryside with their pets to follow the code and keep them under close control at all times. That way the public and sheep farmers can all have an enjoyable Easter."

Theresa added:“It’s also important to keep your dog under control at this time of year to protect birds that nest on or near the ground. These include game birds, such as pheasants and grouse, shore birds such as plovers and terns, waterfowl such as geese, ducks and swans, as well as a lot of garden and hedgerow birds. Wherever you’re having your walk, it’s possible there’ll be a bird nesting somewhere nearby. Keep your dog close to heel or on a short lead to avoid the birds being disturbed. Not only will this help birds raise their young safely, but it will also reduce the chance of your dog encountering an adder.”

For more information on this issue and outdoor access rights in Scotland, see www.outdooraccess-scotland.com.

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