The Kennel Club and National Farmers’ Union (NFU) have joined forces to make countryside dog walks safer and more stress free for both pet dogs and farm animals, by creating new footpath signs which encourage responsible dog ownership, particularly when around livestock.
The signs have been launched at the world’s biggest dog event, Crufts, and they mark a new partnership between the Kennel Club and NFU that aims to help dog owners to enjoy the UK’s landscapes while avoiding causing unintentional injury or distress to farm animals such as sheep and cattle.
The signs reinforce the year-round need to keep dogs on leads around livestock and emphasise that it is safer to release a dog if threatened by inquisitive cattle, so that walkers and dogs can get to safety separately.
In light of recent research carried out by the University of Central Lancashire, which found that many otherwise responsible dog owners do not realise the need to pick up dog waste in the countryside or that they can put bagged dog waste in any public waste bin, the signs also help walkers understand that leaving dog waste where animals graze can cause cattle to abort their calves and lead to brain damage or death in sheep.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “Government figures show that dogs are taken on half of all countryside visits, and in the vast majority of cases these walks are problem free for dog owners and farmers alike.
“It is important for dog owners to be aware of the need to put their dog on a lead at certain times and to always pick up their dog’s waste on farmland, to make sure that everyone can continue enjoying the countryside safely.
“We are proud to be working with the NFU on this new partnership, which will help walkers in the countryside make good choices about what they can do with their mdogs and we are looking forward to the new signage being well used.”
NFU livestock board chairman, Charles Sercombe, a sheep farmer from Leicestershire, said: “The NFU is delighted to partner with the Kennel Club for the first time to encourage responsible dog walking in the countryside. These signs are designed to provide guidance and inform the public of the risks and dangers of walking their pets across farmland.
“Now spring is here we tend to see an increase in the number of people out walking their dogs. But it’s important to remember that farms are working environments so please be aware of your surroundings.
“The advice is, if you have a dog with you keep it close by your side and under control. Where there are cows and sheep put it on a short lead. Remember, cows are inquisitive and may come to investigate, if you feel threatened walk calmly towards the field boundary and let your dog go to allow it to run to safety.”
More information on all of the Kennel Club’s activity can be found at www.thekennelclub.org.uk and information on the National Farmers’ Union is available at www.nfuonline.com.