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Walkers urged to be responsible when out in the Aberdeenshire countryside

By David Porter

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Police and the Farmers Union are encouraging walkers in Scotland to keep dogs under control to prevent attacks on farm animals over the Easter period.

Sergeant Richard Barnwell has reminded walkers of their responsibilities.
Sergeant Richard Barnwell has reminded walkers of their responsibilities.

Formartine area sergeant Richard Barnwell said: "The lockdown has shown a sharp increase in the number of people out exercising in the countryside and it is important to advise them and remind others that your ‘right to roam’ is not absolute.

"Information regarding your rights and responsibilities of access can be found here on the Aberdeenshire Council website.

"In essence, your right to roam is subject to responsible use of the countryside and given the current global pandemic, the unnecessary wandering over farmers’ fields, the opening and climbing over gates or entering onto land or areas where farmers or at risk persons may be working and living is entirely irresponsible.

"You should not be entering onto any farm yards, passing through any private residential property or their curtilage and you should not be interacting with any animals that are not your own.

"We have to remember that this virus can transfer and remain on hairs and surfaces long after you have left the area, you may needlessly be putting other people and yourself at risk.

"A final point for dog walkers to consider; you are lawfully obligated to maintain control of your dog(s) whilst in a public place, if you are using the countryside be mindful that we are well into lambing season with heavily pregnant ewes and baby lambs all around us.

"If you do not have 100 per cent control over your dog whilst walking in the country then keep them on a lead.

"Farmers have the lawful right to shoot any dog entering their land and worrying their livestock and you as the owner could face criminal charges for allowing it to stray, causing worry of injury to livestock.

The sentiments were echoed by both NFU Mutual and NFU Scotland who have also urged dog walkers to keep their pets under control while exercising on farmland following a series of attacks on sheep.

NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, Rebecca Davidson aid: “These horrific attacks have left a trail of dead and seriously-injured sheep and new-born lambs so we are urging dog walkers to keep their pets on the lead at all times when exercising them in countryside where livestock are reared.

"Walking dogs on a lead also ensures people can safely keep two metres away from others.

"Even if a dog doesn’t make contact, the distress and exhaustion of the chase can cause a sheep to die.

"Many walkers are also failing to clear up after their dog, which can spread disease to livestock.

“Some farming areas are experiencing increased numbers of walkers with dogs, with farmers having to spend additional time patrolling flocks to try and prevent attacks which is hindering them from getting on with the vital task of producing food for the nation.

“There are real concerns that high numbers of people using farmland footpaths for exercise are putting older farmers in particular at risk.

NFU Scotland, Head of Policy Team, Gemma Cooper said: “Those who are accessing the countryside with dogs need to be aware that there is still livestock in the fields and that their dog can and will attack sheep and cows.

"Avoid fields with livestock where possible and keep your dog under control and remember to pick up after them."

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