If you’re visiting our rural communities this summer, please follow the countryside code
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As we move into the warmer months, activity in our rural communities increases with more visitors looking to take advantage of the open countryside to walk their dogs.
Although most dog owners and walkers follow the Countryside Code, unfortunately some visitors behave irresponsibly putting their own safety at risk, and that of the wildlife and livestock they encounter.
Some farmers in the south of the county have reported that they have repeatedly found people straying from the public rights of way, and when challenged, members of the public have become verbally abusive.
Whilst there has also been reports the several “keep your dogs on the lead” signs, provided by Northamptonshire Police, National Farmers’ Union and National Sheep Association, have been ripped down and damaged near livestock fields.
These recent incidents have prompted members of the South Northamptonshire Neighbourhood Policing Team to urge all visitors to respect our rural communities and encourage them to follow the Countryside Code.
As well as preventing damage to crops, which ultimately go to producing food, it’s important that people do stick to the official public rights of way, as agricultural machinery working in the fields operate throughout the day and into the evening.
In addition to taking part in spraying and spreading operations, the large machines need to travel from field to field, and it is therefore also vital that visitors park their vehicles considerately, not blocking entrances or putting others in danger.
Dog owners are legally responsible for always keeping their pets under control and should keep them on a lead when walking near livestock to prevent animals being injured or killed.
Livestock worrying is the term used to describe a dog being loose around farm animals chasing them in a way which could cause injury or suffering or attacking them.
It is a criminal offence, which carries a fine of up to £1,000, and under the law, a farmer has the right to shoot and kill a dog which is worrying livestock and cannot be controlled.
PC Chris Bird of the South Northamptonshire Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “We want everyone to enjoy our beautiful countryside but not at the expense of our rural communities.
“It’s important that anyone intending on visiting the countryside respects the rules and we would advise people to plan their routes in advance, especially if they’re unfamiliar with the area.
“Our farmers and foresters are the custodians of our countryside, and they want to welcome people on the official public rights of way, but unfortunately the actions of some are causing significant harm and distress.
“The fields and woodlands are working environments, which are carefully managed for many purposes including conservation and people’s livelihoods; and straying from marked footpaths or other rights of way can significantly interfere with this.
“Finally, please abide by any signs or rules. Don’t remove or deface any signage as it’s there to keep everyone safe and always keep your dog on a lead as there could be sheep and cattle nearby which you’re not aware of.”
Tips for safe and responsible dog walking around livestock:
• Keep dogs on a lead and under control when walking through fields of livestock • Always stick to public rights of way and leave all gates as you found them • If you live beside land where livestock is grazed, ensure you know where your dog is always, and keep your property secure so your dog cannot escape • Cows can be curious and may follow walkers. If this happens, keep facing the animal and move calmly and slowly, don’t turn your back to it or run • Steer well clear of young animals and do not try to pet them. Cows and calves will be protective and may become aggressive • If you feel threatened by cattle when with a dog, let go of the lead so you and the dog can get to safety separately • Dog owners MUST bag and bin their dog’s poo - it carries a parasite called Neosporin which causes abortions in animals and the bags left on the ground can be ingested and cause slow painful deaths, or bailed into silage and eaten that way
Incidents of livestock worrying should be reported online to the police or by calling the non-emergency 101 number. If the dog is in the process of worrying livestock and cannot be stopped, please call 999.
Anyone who shoots a dog to prevent livestock worrying must notify the police within 48 hours.
For more information on the Countryside Code click here.