With the easing of some Covid restrictions and the Scottish countryside opening up this Easter weekend, farmers with livestock fear that many of those who have adopted a dog over lockdown will take to the countryside, unaware of the danger they could pose to lambs, calves, heavily pregnant sheep and other stock.
And yesterday, NFU Scotland launched #WalkiesWithoutWorries - a social media campaign to encourage responsible dog walking.
Using simple infographic messages, the campaign urges members of the public:
*To keep dogs on a lead around sheep be aware that cattle can be dangerous
*To choose alternative routes rather than fields with young calves or lambs
*To pick up dog poo and dispose of it responsibly as it can spread serious diseases to livestock.
*To leave gates as they find them
*To prevent dogs from disturbing local wildlife and ground-nesting birds
The union has also launched a web-based ‘Access Information Hub’ containing useful information and downloadable resources including posters and infographics and signposting to useful access guidance in advance of the expected influx of walkers and dog owners.
The site is interactive and includes an important feature that encourages farmers and crofters to log any access issues that they are facing, including access taken with dogs.
“The Scottish Countryside is a beautiful working environment where many people want to go and enjoy themselves with their canine companions safely,” said Lanarkshire farmer Tom French, who chairs the union’s Legal and Technical committee.
“People want to do the right thing in terms of not distressing farm animals and disturbing wildlife.
“We want to support the public, especially those who are new dog owners or new to the countryside, by giving clear messages so they can have #WalkieWithoutWorries. We encourage our members and those working and living in the countryside to share the infographics on social media so that there is less likelihood of ‘worries’ for them.”
South of the border the National Sheep Association together with the RSPCA have launched a similar campaign.
“Sadly our inspectors have seen the tragic consequences of livestock worrying and know all too well the devastating impact this has on farmers and their animals,” said Sam Gaines, Dog Welfare Specialist at the RSPCA.He said his organisation has always stressed tried to hit home the message to dog owners that no matter their dog’s breed, how obedient they are or how strong they think their recall is, the only safe option is to keep their pets on the lead whenever they’re around livestock:
“Even the act of a dog simply chasing a sheep for a few moments can have a devastating impact. Spring can be a particularly difficult time, with heavily pregnant ewes aborting due to stress and young lambs getting separated from their mothers if the flock is disturbed.”