Coronavirus: Dog walkers told to control dogs near farms

Police are urging members of the public not to escape to the countryside to walk dogs or exercise as these actions could risk spreading the coronavirus and increase dog attacks on livestock.

Calving, lambing and field work is in full swing on farms and farmers fear that a sudden influx of people to the countryside will add an extra burden.

Insp Hagen of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce said: “If you are walking your dog as a form of exercise in the countryside, keep it under control and on a lead near livestock.

“This advice applies all the time but please take particular care now – farmers and vets do not need any extra work.”

See also: Footpath fears over spread of coronavirus

Avoidable crime

The plea follows West Yorkshire Police reporting of 38 sheep worrying incidents in the area over the last four days, highlighting dog attacks on numerous sheep in Ilkley and Oxenhope.

These are all avoidable crimes, putting undue stress on the animals, farmers and an already resource-stretched police forces.

CLA North director Dorothy Fairburn said: “It is vital that dog owners understand their responsibilities when walking their dogs on farms or adjacent areas.

“Those using the countryside should, especially under current circumstances, be conscious that the countryside is also a place of work where the land, livestock, machinery, wildlife and environment must be respected.

“The Countryside Code is generally adhered to by the majority of people, but there are a few worrying trends either based on anti-social behaviour or a lack of awareness of the working countryside.”

Unnecessary travel

A number of rural police teams across the UK are also asking people to avoid unnecessary travel until restrictions placed on all of us to tackle the pandemic have been lifted.

They will be urging people to behave responsibly – for example, where rights of way pass close to, or through residential and agricultural properties.

It is also important that the existing government advice regarding social distancing and hand washing is adhered to.

The government’s Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 states people are only allowed to leave their homes for the following reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home

Insp Matt Hagen, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, asked rural residents to do their bit. He said: “People living in the Dales, Moors and other rural areas can also help us protect the NHS and save lives.”

Avon and Somerset Police force has been handing out leaflets to people in rural locations, near farms and beauty spots, reminding them of the restrictions.

“Each and every one of us has been instructed to avoid all unnecessary travel. You are entitled to exercise once daily. This should be by walking, running or cycling from your home address. You should not be driving to a location away from home to carry this out,” says the pamphlet.

Derbyshire Police said too many people were ignoring the advice and still making unnecessary journeys to the Peak District.

The Country, Land and Business Association (CLA) urged people to act responsibly in the countryside, limit exercise to once a day in addition to practicing social distancing, and respect the Countryside Code (PDF) which helps to protect British landscapes as well as farmers and those living there.

Three top tips for those using the countryside:

1. Livestock worrying by dogs not adequately controlled by their owners is on the increase. Please keep your dog on a lead if you are anywhere near livestock.

Even the best-trained family pet can chase sheep and wildlife if not kept under close control. Also, clear up after your dog.

2. Fly-tipping is a blight on the landscape and can cost up to £800 per incident to clear away and all at the farmer’s expense.

Please ensure you take your litter home with you and dispose of bulky waste through proper legal channels.

3. When riding a bike or driving a vehicle, slow down or stop for horses, walkers and farm animals and give them plenty of room. By law, cyclists must give way to walkers and horse- riders on bridleways.

The Countryside Code applies to all parts of the countryside in England and Wales. It aims to help everyone respect, protect and enjoy the outdoors. 

See more