Guidance for dog walkers
1. Dogs on rights of way
There is no legal requirement for dogs to be kept on leads, however dogs should be kept under close control when using public rights of way, to ensure it does not scare farm animals, wildlife or other path users. This means dogs should be either on a fixed lead, walking at heal or have a reliable recall. Dogs should be kept within sight and not be allowed to stray off the path. In some urban areas there may be local bylaws requiring dogs to be on leads – there will be a sign if this is the case.
2. Dogs around livestock and path users
Uncontrolled dogs can chase, worry or attack sheep and can even cause a pregnant ewe to miscarry or reject a newborn lamb. A farmer is entitled to shoot a dog if it is attacking or worrying the livestock.
If a dog is aggressive to another path user then the keeper of the dog is liable for any injury or damage. This would be a private matter between the parties.
3. Walking near cows
Current guidance advises putting your dog on a lead (as a means of close control) but letting it go if chased. The cows are more likely to go after a dog than a human and the dog can probably run faster and find a means of escape more easily. Avoid walking between a cow and her calf and, if possible, quietly pass around the herd rather then through the middle. If you think any animal is, or may be, dangerous be prepared to turn back and find an alternative route. Note as many details as possible and report them to the Rights of Way Team. (External site).
4. Dog access through stiles
Landowners are not required to provide gaps or other access for dogs. However the County Council offers free stock-proof dog-latches as this can prevent damage to fences and stiles.
5. Dog fouling on a right of way
In certain areas it is an offence to leave dog foul on a public right of way where there is a bylaw in force, or on an area designated under the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996. It could also be a common law nuisance or a civil wrong against the landowner. Some District Councils have a dog warden who can give further advice.
Please report any issues with dog fouling to the appropriate district or borough council.
When out and about enjoying the countryside with your dog, please remember, that there may be livestock present in fields and that you need to keep your dog on a lead. The number of dogs attacking sheep in particular, has risen dramatically over the last few years, so please make sure you put your dog on a lead whenever you are in the vicinity of livestock.