Walkers in Scotland should be careful around animals as spring finally arrives

Spring lambs on Glen Fyne

After the slow start to spring in Scotland following the pre-Easter snowfall, Ramblers Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates are urging walkers to take care around animals and keep dogs under close control.

Parts of Scotland are still in recovery mode following the severe cold weather which had a devastating effect on sheep and wildlife in many areas and placed a huge strain on farmers due to the challenging conditions.

“We would ask those going out to enjoy the countryside over the coming weeks to make a conscious effort to avoid disturbing animals and birds as the breeding season starts.” says Anne Gray, Policy Officer for Scottish Land & Estates, the Scottish landowners’ organisation.

Anyone walking their dog in Scotland this spring should also be extra vigilant as dogs can be seen as a threat by both domestic and wild animals. “In particular, parent animals and birds with young to protect can become very agitated by the presence of a dog.” says Anne. “This can be the case whether a dog is behaving aggressively or not.”

Farmers are within their rights to shoot a dog that has attacked, or is about to attack, livestock. It is also a criminal offence to allow a dog to chase or attack sheep, other domestic livestock, poultry and wild animals or birds.

“The worst case scenario is of course when a dog attacks an animal or bird.” says Anne. “Avoiding fields of young farm animals and keeping dogs close and quiet in other sensitive areas is often all that is required to ensure a good walk doesn’t turn bad.”

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code gives simple but very good advice for dog walkers to help them enjoy the countryside responsibly as spring arrives in Scotland, bringing with it more opportunities for walking as the weather becomes warmer and the days longer.

Key points to remember when walking with dogs:

  1. Don’t take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals.
  2. If you go into a field of farm animals, keep as far as possible from the animals and keep your dog on a short lead or under close control.
  3. During the bird breeding season (usually April to July) keep your dog under close control or on a short lead in areas such as moorland, forests, grassland, loch shores and the seashore.
  4. If cattle react aggressively and move towards you, keep calm, let the dog go and take the shortest, safest route out of the field.
  5. Pick up and remove your dog’s poo on farm land. Diseases which effect livestock can be passed on through dog poo.