by John Bryant, Tonbridge
Does anyone share my concern about the way some farmers treat their sheep dogs. Walking in Cumbria and Yorkshire I seem to come across too many dogs chained up, or shut in dark sheds with their noses sticking out of a gap at the bottom of a door, or howling from inside some other farm building.
I wonder how many hours a week some of these dogs spend chained up. This year in the Yorkshire Dales I came across a dog chained up to a ramshackle wooden box at least 100 yards from any farm building, another chained to an old farm implement which also acted as its totally inadequate shelter and another chained to a rotting kennel with only half a roof.
Others have told me of sheep dogs, considered too old, or too unstable with the sheep, chained up permanently. These fantastic dogs need someone to speak up on their behalf.
Dog owners are required to keep dogs under effective control at all times. For the avoidance on doubt, The Countryside Code on the Natural England website is quite explicit about what is defined by the phrase 'Keep dogs under effective control'.
Keep dogs under effective control
When you take your dog into the outdoors, always ensure it does not disturb wildlife, farm animals, horses or other people by keeping it under effective control. This means that you:
- keep your dog on a lead, or
- keep it in sight at all times, be aware of what it's doing and be confident it will return to you promptly on command
- ensure it does not stray off the path or area where you have a right of access
Special dog rules may apply in particular situations, so always look out for local signs - for example:
- Dogs may be banned from certain areas that people use, or there may be restrictions, byelaws or control orders limiting where they can go.
- The access rights that normally apply to open country and registered common land (known as 'Open Access' land) require dogs to be kept on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July, to help protect ground nesting birds, and all year round near farm animals.
- At the coast, there may also be some local restrictions to require dogs to be kept on a short lead during the bird breeding season, and to prevent disturbance to flocks of resting and feeding birds during other times of year.
It's always good practice (and a legal requirement on 'Open Access' land) to keep your dog on a lead around farm animals and horses, for your own safety and for the welfare of the animals. A farmer may shoot a dog which is attacking or chasing farm animals without being liable to compensate the dog's owner.
However, if cattle or horses chase you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead - don't risk getting hurt by trying to protect it. Your dog will be much safer if you let it run away from a farm animal in these circumstances and so will you.
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 - 'bag it and bin it'. Make sure your dog is wormed regularly to protect it, other animals and people.
Hope this helps . . .
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