As winter recedes and the spring breeding season starts, walkers are being reminded to keep dogs under control

As winter recedes and the spring breeding season starts, walkers are being reminded to keep dogs under control

Dog owners were reminded to keep their pets under close control as the lambing season gets underway in the Yorkshire Dales.

The national park authority is appealing to walkers to keep their dogs on a lead because of the injury and worry they may cause to sheep in the countryside.

Nesting birds and other wildlife are also at risk if dogs are not kept under control, and can cause long-term damage to both farm animals and wild animals and birds, according to Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority ranger services manager Alan Hulme.

Mr Hulme said: ““The breeding season lasts until July 31 and it’s a very sensitive time for domestic and wild animals, especially ground-nesting birds – for which the Dales are renowned.

“We hear dog owners say all the time that my dog never chases or attacks sheep and lambs – which unfortunately does happen – but what a lot of owners don’t appreciate is that dogs can cause just as much harm unintentionally by keeping parents away from their young, which leaves eggs, fledglings and lambs vulnerable.

“Dog owners are entitled to keep their pets off the lead on public paths but they must be under close control. However, to be on the safe side, we would urge them to keep their pets on a lead in an effort to reduce the risk of wildlife and farm animals being unintentionally disturbed at this crucial time.

“There are some simple rules under the Countryside Code that pet owners must remember, the most important being that, in most areas of open country and common land – known as ‘access land’ – you must keep your dog on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July, and all year round near farm animals.”

Malham farmer and Local Access Forum member Neil Heseltine, who was recently featured on the BBC2 Lambing Live Programme, stressed the need for extra care on the part of dog owners.

The farmer, who has about 400 sheep, said: “We do get problems and it isn’t always from visitors letting their dogs off the lead.

“I think the main message to get across is that you can’t be too careful when you are out in the countryside with a dog.

“It doesn’t have to be physically chasing sheep – just its presence can cause upset. It may cause a ewe to stumble or fall and that could be enough to kill the lambs inside her.

“And every lost lamb impacts on someone’s livelihood.”

The authority said National Park rangers and National Park Centre staff will be happy to give advice to walkers on the matter.

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