Each year there are reports of unfortunate cases where people have been attacked, or even trampled to death, by cows whilst out walking or approaching crags. Make sure this doesn't happen to you.
Most members of the public are wary of bulls, but few realise that cows, particularly those protecting newly-born calves, can also be dangerous. So what should you do?
In reported cases, the cows are thought to have been trying to drive off the dogs in order to protect their young. Here is an example in a local newspaper
While such attacks are relatively rare, Health and Safety Executive figures show that over 481 people have been injured by cows in the past eight years.
The countryside is a great place to exercise dogs, but it’s every owner’s duty to make sure their dog is not a danger or nuisance to farm animals, wildlife or other people.
By law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals, therefore dog walkers should keep their dogs on their lead at any time of the year when near farm animals, particularly during lambing times. However, it’s really important to be aware that there will circumstances when this could prove to be the wrong advice.
Keep calm, carry on……
If you find yourself in a field of suddenly wary cattle, move away as carefully and quietly as possible, and if you feel threatened by cattle then let go of your dog’s lead and let it run free rather than try to protect it and endanger yourself. The dog will outrun the cows and it will outrun you.
Those without canine companions should follow similar advice: move away calmly, do not panic and make no sudden noises. Chances are the cows will leave you alone once they establish that you pose no threat.
If you walk through a field of cows and there happen to be calves, think twice; if you can, go another way and avoid crossing fields.
Bulls and Public Rights of Way
It is an offence to allow a bull over 10 months old and on its own to be at large in a field crossed by a public right of way. It is also an offence to keep a bull of a recognised dairy breed (even if accompanied by cows/heifers) on land crossed by a public right of way.
The exceptions are bulls not more than 10 months old, or bulls which are not of a recognised dairy breed (currently defined as Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey and Kerry) and are accompanied by cows and heifers. In practice, it may be difficult for a user to know whether bulls will be likely to be dangerous or not, and farmers should, wherever possible, not keep bulls in fields crossed by rights of way.
The Health and Safety Executive recommends that signs should be displayed at each access point, noting that a bull is in the field. The above advice applies to those walking through a field which contains a bull.
The Countryside Code states that:
By law, you must keep your dog under effective control so that it does not disturb or scare farm animals or wildlife. On most areas of open country and common land, known as 'access land' you must keep your dog on a short lead on most areas of open country and common land between 1 March and 31 July, and all year round near farm animals.
You do not have to put your dog on a lead on public paths, as long as it is under close control. But as a general rule, keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience. By law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals.
If a farm animal chases you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead – don’t risk getting hurt by trying to protect it.
Take particular care that your dog doesn’t scare sheep and lambs or wander where it might disturb birds that nest on the ground and other wildlife – eggs and young will soon die without protection from their parents.
Everyone knows how unpleasant dog mess is and it can cause infections – so always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly. Also make sure your dog is wormed regularly to protect it, other animals and people.
At certain times, dogs may not be allowed on some areas of access land or may need to be kept on a lead. Please follow any signs.
BBC report that includes advice from the National Farmers Union (NFU).
You can also find out more by phoning the Open Access Contact Centre on 0845 100 3298.
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