After the death of a dog walker last month, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Scottish Land & Estates, and NFU Scotland are advising dog walkers to avoid fields with cows and young calves.
Cattle may see dogs as a threat and react aggressively or panic when they have dependent young calves. The three organisations advise against takinga dog into a field where there are calves, lambs and other young animals. Walk through a neighbouring field or on the land next to it. In more open country, keep your dog on a short lead if young livestock are around and keep your distance from them.
If you find yourself in a field with livestock and young, make your way out by the shortest route to avoid getting closer to the animals. Avoid separating a cow from her calf, or scaring livestock into running away.
If cattle show signs of being aggressive, keep calm, let go of your dog and take the shortest, safest route out of the field. The survival chances for humans and dogs are far better if the dog is let go to escape on its own.
Make sure that your dog does not chase or worry livestock by keeping it on a short (two metres or less) lead or close at heel which means close at heel and able to respond to your commands.
People and dogs are at risk, but so are livestock. Dogs may harm livestock by distressing them. A dog could cause injury by, for example, chasing cattle, which could then damage and break through fences.
Kirstin Guthrie of SNH said: “It’s great to be outdoors with your dog and, in Scotland, we have some of the best access rights in the world – but we have to remember we share the outdoors with other people and animals. Be aware that your dog could be frightening cattle and, to keep both you and your pet safe, control your dog and stay out of fields with cattle where possible.”
Anne Gray of Scottish Land & Estates added: “Cattle can be placid, if somewhat large and inquisitive, animals, but cows protecting young calves are much less tolerant of anything in their field that they might perceive as a threat. Dogs, no matter how well behaved, are a particular target in this respect. People should try to find alternative routes so as to avoid fields with cows and young calves, but if they do find themselves in a situation with aggressive cattle the best advice is to stay calm, let your dog go and leave by the shortest, quickest route.”
NFU Scotland’s Policy Manager, Gemma Thomson said: “We want people, their children and their pets to get out into the Scottish countryside in a manner that is both enjoyable and safe. Cattle can be both very inquisitive and very protective of their calves and that makes their reaction to people walking with their dogs difficult to predict. There are a huge number of walks available to those wanting to get out and about with their dogs and taking time to pick a route that steers clear of cattle allows individuals, families and their pets to have a safe and pleasant time outdoors.”
For more information on this issue and outdoor access rights in Scotland, see www.outdooraccess-scotland.com.