THE CLA (Country Land and Business Association) is urging dog owners and walkers in the North of England to ensure their pets are under control around livestock and arable fields to avoid risking animal welfare and damage to crops.

The call comes ahead of the Prime Minister’s announcement due this Sunday, which is expected to include an easing of restrictions on people’s movements. This could potentially lead to an increase in dog owners and walkers using our countryside.

The CLA North office, which represents thousands of landowners, farmers and rural businesses across the North in Cumbria, Lancashire, the North East, and Yorkshire is offering advice to dog owners and walkers to enjoy the countryside responsibly at this time.

The renewed call comes after numerous farmers have suffered abuse by walkers not sticking to footpaths, trampling on crops, and not keeping their dogs on leads around livestock.

CLA Director North Dorothy Fairburn said: “The CLA recognises the enormous benefits to the nation's wellbeing from being out in the countryside and close to nature. It is one of the most important 'public goods' provided by farmers and landowners.”

“Visitors to the countryside should maintain social distancing and not veer off sign-posted footpaths. 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.”

“We would advise owners to keep their dogs on a lead or under close control when walking through fields of livestock, particularly sheep at this time of year, and to always stick to public rights of ways.

“It is also important that dogs should also be adequately controlled in arable fields. It is simply irresponsible to let dogs roam free, causing damage to crops that contribute to the country’s food supply.”

“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.”

Three top tips for those using the countryside:

• 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.

• 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.

• 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. Follow the Countryside Code here

The CLA has published a dedicated advisory and information page (regularly updated) on the coronavirus – which can be accessed here: