Dog walker’s cattle death prompts safety reminder

A retired biology lecturer was trampled to death by a herd of cows while out walking his dog.

Father-of-two John McNamara, 67, died following the incident on a farm in Forest Row, East Sussex, on 8 October last year.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) only released details of Mr McNamara’s death on 17 January – with a plea to livestock farmers to take steps to prevent deaths and serious injuries from cattle-related incidents.

See also: What farmers need to know about fencing and the law

A coroner will hold an inquest into the incident, which also claimed the life of his pet dog.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “The bodies of a man and a dog were found in a field on farmland in Priory Row, Forest Row, at 1.45pm on Monday, 8 October.

“The deaths of the 67-year-old and his dog are not being treated as suspicious.

“The circumstances are being investigated and the coroner’s officer is dealing with the deaths.”

Tributes paid

Tributes have poured in for Mr McNamara from friends and family members who have been deeply saddened and shocked by his death.

His wife Alison Read, 57, described him as a “larger-than-life character” who was a keen Chelsea FC supporter. He was also the chairman of Forest Row and Groombridge Labour Party.

In a statement, Mr McNamara’s family said he was a “sensible man” who had walked dogs through the fields for 14 years.

“You cannot walk around the fields here and avoid the cows because they can be moved on a daily basis,” his wife said. “And you never know where they are going to be.”

Cattle and footpaths

She said Mr McNamara knew about the dangers of walking dogs in fields of cattle.

“Comments concerning the dangers of walking through cattle and any suggestions that he may have been ignorant of these dangers or acted in some way that caused his and our dog’s death have caused us some pain.

“John talked about his concerns of walking along the footpath when cows were present on a daily basis.

“I find it very difficult to reconcile myself with the fact that the thing he feared most did in fact kill him. I try not to imagine what his last moments were like.”

In August, farmer Stephen Sandys, 64, of Groombridge, near Tonbridge Wells, East Sussex, was trampled to death by his bull.

Safety advice to protect members of the public from cattle

The Health and safety Executive says cattle-related incidents are one of the biggest causes of deaths and serious injuries on farm.

Nearly 80 people have died in deaths involving cattle since the year 2000 – on average four people every year.

The HSE has issued safety advice to farmers to prevent such incidents.

  • Cows with young calves should be kept in fields without public access
  • Members of the public are unlikely to understand cattle behaviour. Consider ways in which animals can be segregated from rights of way with physical means such as temporary fencing
  • Remove or cull animals that show signs of aggression. Keep “flighty” animals in fields with no public access
  • Check that paths are clearly marked and that fences are secure and well maintained. Site feed locations and troughs away from paths and stiles
  • Consider the nature of the cattle you put in fields with public access. Take account of the age of animals, the presence of calves and the influence of changing conditions, like weather and increased footfall at holiday times.
  • You should judge animal behaviour when members of the public are present, especially if they are walking dogs or with children. Animals showing signs of aggression or distress should be moved to alternative fields
  • Display signs when a bull is present.