Sheep are vulnerable to attack by dogsWalkers in Scotland are being asked to take a lead in protecting livestock.

The Ramblers’ Association in Scotland and the National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) have teamed up to remind outdoors users of the damage that can be done to animals by out-of-control dogs. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code, introduced as part of right-to-roam legislation, urges walkers to act responsibly in the countryside.

Sheep are vulnerable to attack by dogs 

Ramblers’ Convener, Alison Mitchell, said “Walking is a perfect form of exercise for almost anyone, whatever their ability, and is a great way of enjoying our beautiful countryside. But we should all be conscious that spring is also a sensitive time on farms and act responsibly.

NFUS Access Officer, Sue Hilder said: “Farmers welcome responsible walkers and other recreational users to come and enjoy the scenery in Scotland.  

“The sight of young lambs in spring is a joy shared by everyone visiting or living in the countryside.  However, everyone should also be aware that it’s a very busy time for farmers and a critical time for new-born animals, especially lambs.  

“It’s essential that people follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and take heed of any local advice from farmers. In particular, dogs should be kept well away from sheep because even if no lambs are present, pregnant ewes are extremely vulnerable to disturbance.”

The code advises people to avoid walking, riding or cycling through fields with lambs and calves, if possible, and never to take a dog into a field with young animals. It says adjacent fields or land should be used where this is possible. Walkers and others using the outdoors should also be aware that animals with young calves and sheep can become aggressive, particularly when dogs enter their fields.

In England and Wales, many areas of open access land do not allow dogs during the season from Easter to autumn. In access land where dogs are allowed, they should be kept on leads of no more than 2m unless on a public right of way.

Ground nesting birds such as curlew and grouse are also at risk from uncontrolled dogs.