Dog owners urged to consider the countryside code
Posted on : 10 Mar 2017
Sheep are valuable assets to farmers and it is every dog’s instinct to chase, even if they are usually obedient and good with other animals.
Chasing by dogs can do serious damage to sheep, even if the dog doesn’t catch them. The stress can cause sheep to die and pregnant ewes to miscarry their lambs.
Sheep fleeing from dogs are often killed or seriously injured by their panicked attempts to escape, causing damage to fences and field boundaries in the process.
It is important that dogs are kept on a lead around livestock. If you live in or near a farming area, you must make sure that your dog cannot escape from your property, as it may find its way onto land containing sheep.
Here is a summary of the key points of legislation affecting dogs around sheep in England and Wales:
Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, if a dog worries sheep on agricultural land, the person in charge of the dog is guilty of an offence. The Act considers sheep worrying to include attacking sheep, chasing them in a way that may cause injury, suffering, abortion or loss of produce or being at large (not on a lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep.
The Countryside and Right of Way Act (CROW Act) sets out public rights of access to open land and the restrictions to these rights. Although CROW allows anyone on to open access land (land you can access without having to use paths, including mountains, moorland, heaths, downs and registered common land) for recreation, the Act states that the public can only go on this land if they keep dogs on a fixed lead of 2 metres or less near livestock. The owner of open access land can close areas containing sheep to dogs for up to six weeks once a year, as a safeguard during lambing.
The Countryside Code offers advice on walking your dog near livestock, as well as other information on how to enjoy a safe and responsible trip to a rural area in England and Wales.