Landowners have warned of the risk of a spike in dog attacks as “pandemic puppies” get their first taste of the countryside as the lambing season peaks.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 farmers and landowners, is offering advice on walking dogs in the countryside to help new owners understand how to protect their pet and keep livestock safe.
The advice comes after a surge in people buying pets such as puppies during the pandemic, with many young dogs yet to experience the great outdoors.
The CLA fears there could be a rise in attacks on livestock following an easing of lockdown restrictions ahead of the Easter bank holiday weekend, coinciding with the peak in the lambing season.
The landowners warn a lack of education around the Countryside Code has left a generation without an understanding of what is acceptable behaviour for dog owners, and they called for the code to be taught in schools.
The organisation recommends the following action dog owners can take if they take their pets to the countryside:
– Ensure your dog is under control, keep your dog on a lead and only let go if you are chased by livestock.
– Never let your dog worry or chase wildlife or livestock. Follow advice on local signs to reduce disturbance to plants and animals.
– Prevent your dog from approaching horse riders, cyclists, or other people and their dogs uninvited.
– Keep your dog with you on paths or access land and do not let it stray into crops including fields of grass, fruit and vegetables.
– Never leave bags of dog poo lying around, even if you intend to pick them up later. Containers and deodorised bags can make them easier to carry.
– Ensure your details are on your dog’s collar and it is microchipped, so you can be reunited quickly if it is lost.
The organisation is also urging owners to pick up their pet’s poo to prevent Neosporosis, an infectious disease caused by a parasite which can be spread from dog faeces and causes abortion and stillbirth among dairy and beef cattle.
Mark Bridgeman, president of the CLA, said: “Getting a new puppy is an exciting time for everyone, although it is also a huge learning curve.
“Part of that learning curve is teaching your dog how to interact with other animals safely.
“With lockdown restrictions easing up as the crucial lambing season is hitting its peak, we want to help inform the millions of people who are new owners on how to protect their dog and keep farm animals safe, allowing everyone to enjoy the countryside together.
“The Countryside Code is generally adhered to by the majority of people, but there can be incidents of anti-social behaviour or a lack of awareness of the working countryside.
“All visitors should be conscious that the countryside is a place of work where the land, livestock, machinery, wildlife and environment must be respected.”