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Dog walkers urged to know the code before they go!

25th March 2008

It’s the Easter holidays, spring has sprung, and all over Scotland people are heading to the countryside to enjoy the great outdoors. For those of you heading outside with your dogs, please be especially considerate of wildlife and farm animals at this time of year.

Scotland is a great place for dogs and owners and walking a dog is a great way to get regular exercise; it’s good for your health and your quality of life too but do remember that you and your dogs share the outdoors with others!

The Outdoor Access team at the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) are encouraging dog owners to ensure that they know how to act responsibly in the countryside by – if they haven’t done so already – picking up a copy of the ‘Walkies’ leaflet, which tells them what the Scottish Outdoor Access Code means for them and their pooches!

Dog owners and walkers out and about in the Cairngorms National Park are being reminded that spring is an important time of year for farming interests – sheep and lambs can be injured and killed by attacks from uncontrolled dogs and in general, dogs should be kept out of fields containing young animals.

Fran Pothecary, Outdoor Access Officer at the CNPA explained: “Dogs that are not under proper control can be a real concern to others and especially those managing the land such as farmers, crofters and gamekeepers. As well as affecting the wildlife and birds that make the Cairngorms National Park such a special place there can be all sorts of problems with dogs in areas where there are spring lambs or other young farm animals.

“Our advice is to ensure your dog is close to you and make sure that it is responsive to your commands in areas where there could be vulnerable wildlife and young farm animals. If in doubt, pop your dog on a lead until you are in an area where you are sure it can cause no harm. What under ‘close control’ means is that your dog will respond to your commands and is kept close at heel.”

Alistair MacLennan, a Strathspey farmer and member of the CNPA board added: “Some of the advice issued is aimed at the safety of walkers and their dogs’ – for example, cattle can be unpredictable around dogs and can react very aggressively. If you find yourself in this situation, you should keep calm, let your dog go if it is on a lead and take the shortest route to safety.”

Dog owners and walkers out and about in the Cairngorms National Park are also being reminded that spring is a particularly important time of year for breeding wildlife which is vulnerable to disturbance.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code states that: during the breeding season (usually April to July) keep your dog under close control or on a short lead in areas such as moorland, forests, grassland, loch shores and the sea shores.”

The advice issued does not just apply to farmland and lowland areas, the Code also applies in mountain areas where ground nesting birds such as ptarmigan and dotterel can be found as well as red deer hinds with calves.

Cairngorm Mountain Ranger Nic Bullivant, also a member of the Cairngorms Local Outdoor Access Forum, said: “Up on the plateau ground nesting birds can be scared off their nests by dogs, which leaves their young to die of cold, or become prey to scavengers such as ravens and foxes. We put seasonal signs up drawing peoples’ attention to the problem and encourage them to play a part in looking after the birds and wildlife of the mountains.”

Finally, you should always pick up your dogs faeces if you are walking in an area that is well-used by the public or where there is a risk to farming interests.

You can get more information on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code here. The ‘Walkies’ leaflet is widely available, however if you are unable to obtain a copy contact the CNPA on tel: 01479 873535.