Refresh Of The Countryside Code

With the peak lambing season almost upon us, farmers across Scotland are calling for greater awareness of the ever-present threat of sheep worrying, and potential changes in the law carrying harsher penalties.

Responding to these concerns, NFU Scotland launched its campaign, Control Your Dog on Farmland, in Glasgow at the beginning of February with four key messages:

Be informed: know what your responsibilities are under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC). Plan ahead: know your route; make sure you have a lead and bags to remove dog mess. Control your pet: always keep dogs on a lead around livestock. Picking up after your dog is not enough: put dog mess in a bin, do not leave it in undergrowth or bushes. What are your responsibilities under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code?

The SOAC contains reciprocal obligations on landowners and the general public, including dog walkers. It is available online here.

Responsibilities around farm animals

While access rights extend to fields with farm animals in them, the SOAC warns that some livestock (especially cows during the calving season), can react aggressively to walkers. Accordingly, before entering any field containing livestock you should check for alternative routes, particularly if there are young animals in the field. If there are no alternatives then a safe distance should be maintained at all times.

When exercising access rights, the general public should never feed or directly contact any livestock. Litter should be removed, and all gates should be closed behind them. No cars should be parked in a field where there are farm animals.

Farmers are encouraged to keep animals that are known to be dangerous and/or calving or lambing away from fields containing core paths or well used routes, if possible.

Responsibilities when dog walking

Access rights can be enjoyed when dog walking, provided dogs are kept under proper control. Damage caused by dogs can be a major source of problems for farmers, who can suffer significant losses of livestock and, therefore, income as a result.

Guidance for dog walking in the countryside includes:

Never let your dog worry or attack farm animals. Dog walkers are prohibited from taking dogs into fields where there are lambs, calves or young farm animals. If you do take your dog into fields where there are livestock present, keep your dog on a short lead and as far away from the animals as possible. Do not take your dog into fields where vegetables or fruit...

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