As spring approaches (officially, at any rate), dog owners are being encouraged to pick up the poo in a new radio advertising campaign from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Meanwhile down in the Peak the emphasis is on protecting livestock and ground nesting birds.
The Scottish campaign focuses on dog waste as part of ongoing work to publicise access rights and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Unfortunately the infantile device of an anthropomorphic border collie with an annoying voice does rather undermine the campaign's serious message, but perhaps it's targeted at people stupid enough to leave bags of crap hanging from bushes for the fairies to clear up.
Kirstin Guthrie, SNH Communications Officer, said:
'Our radio campaign... helps dispel some myths, as well as highlight how not cleaning up after your dog can kill livestock and encourage other people to think badly of you and your dog.'
Stephen Jenkinson, Kennel Club Access Advisor added:
'Most dog owners understandably tend to be very protective of their dogs, treating them as part of the family and so cleaning up after their pet, wherever they are, is second nature.'
'But some owners still get their dogs a bad name by not picking up in places ranging from city parks and paths to informal tracks across fields in the countryside. Worse still, some owners leave bagged poo hanging from trees or on the ground. To reduce this problem, we want people to know that if there's no dedicated dog bin, bagged poo can go in any general litter bin.'
'We know some people may think it's okay to leave their dog's waste where farm animals graze, but this can spread disease which can kill sheep and make cows lose their unborn calves. Simply bagging it and binning it wherever you are prevents this needless suffering and protects your dog's reputation.'
Scotland's enviable access rights apply to anyone walking their dogs provided they're kept under proper control. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code includes practical do-and-don't advice for dog owners. At this time of year, dog owners' main responsibilities are:
- Lambs: Don't take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals. Go into a neighbouring field or on to land next to it.
- Farm animals: Never let your dog worry or attack farm animals.
- Safety around cattle: Cattle can act aggressively. Keep yourself and your dog at a safe distance and if necessary let your dog go so that you can both seek safety. Where possible, choose a route that avoids taking your dog into fields with farm animals.
- Ground nesting birds: During the bird breeding season (usually April to July), keep your dog under close control or on a short lead in moorland, forests, grassland, loch shores and the sea shore.
- Planted fields: Don't take your dog into fruit and vegetable fields unless there is a clear path, and keep your dog to the path.
- Public places: Keep your dog under close control and avoid causing concern to others, especially those who fear dogs.
- Dog waste: Pick up and dispose of carefully.
More advice and an MP3 file of the advert is available on downloadable leaflets here
Meanwhile down in t'Peak dog-walkers are asked to keep their pets on short leads to protect young animals and birds during the breeding season.
Sheep with lambs, ground-nesting birds like curlew and lapwing, and wild creatures such as hares, are easily scared by dogs running free or on extended leads, says the Peak District National Park.
Peak District Wader Recovery Project officer Tara Challoner said:
'Spring and early summer are critical times especially for breeding birds. They need to be undisturbed to give them the best chance of laying a good number of eggs and raising as many chicks as they can.'
'Birds like lapwing and snipe used to be a common sight in the countryside but they are in decline nationally. We aim to reverse this trend through the Peak District Wader Recovery Project and are working with farmers to safeguard bird breeding grounds.'
'Dog-walkers can help protect the birds by keeping their dogs on a short lead on farmland and moorland.'
In England dog owners have a responsibility under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act to keep their dogs on a lead around wildlife between March 1 and July 31 and at any time near farm animals.
At certain times even dogs on leads are not allowed on some areas to protect sensitive breeding sites. Look out for the signs.
Peak District National Park rangers remind pet-owners that by law, they must keep their dogs under control. Area manager Andy Farmer said:
'We are happy to see people walking their dogs in the countryside but ask them to keep their pets on short leads until July 31. Legally you do not have to use a lead on public paths but we ask people to be responsible particularly during the breeding season, and always use a lead if you can't rely on your dog's obedience.'
To report incidents involving dogs on farmland or moors in the Peak District contact the police first on 101 and subsequently the Peak District National Park Authority on 01629 816572 (weekends) or 01629 816290 (weekdays).
Advice about dogs on moorland is available from Paws on the Moors here.