I’m an outdoors person, as well as a dogs person, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that I tend to combine the two. For many of us, watching our dogs relish the freedom and exercise of the outdoors without leads is the main enjoyment of dog companionship. But, despite such pleasure, when our dogs are allowed to roam free in public spaces, they can cause damage, distress and injury.
Oundle resident Jane Grant experienced this directly during the summer after a large dog had been allowed off its lead late at night. Troubled by the absence of her cat Chester the following morning, Mrs Grant spent the day knocking on doors and learned that ‘a dreadful scream’ had been heard the night before and that a cat had been attacked and taken away in the mouth of a ‘large dark dog’.
Mrs Grant said: ‘I knew it was Chester because his fur was scattered on her front lawn. Chester was 19 years old – a gentle old boy – and the thought of him being whisked away so cruelly was hard to take.’
Mrs Grant had no luck when she inquired about Chester to the dog warden, a number of local vets, Wood Green, the RSPCA, the Town Council, nor even the binmen. After looking every morning before work, Mrs Grant found Chester’s body about 200 yards into the field at the far end of Hillfield Road.
‘Apart from feeling extremely sad at the loss, I am concerned that now this dog has had the taste of a kill could it happen again. I am hoping that the owner of this dog has a conscience and will do the right thing,’ she said. Naturally as a result people have been advocating that nasty dogs be kept under more reliable control.
For dog walkers, usually, it is understandably a shame to see signs enforcing the use of leads on dogs.
However, many problems can arise for farmers by cause of both mental and physical distress of their livestock- and all dogs pose the danger of distress to nearby livestock.
Landowners or owners of livestock even have the right to shoot a dog if they believe it is the only reasonable way to stop it worrying livestock.
Last Spring, Northamptonshire Police sent out advice to dog owners about walking on any agricultural land: ‘We advise dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead and under control when walking though fields of livestock.’
This tip is not, however, a rule; it is a responsibility of the individual to know how much control they have. Of course a trusted, well trained pet can be given the freedom to roam if it will not cause trouble.
It is, however, an offence to ‘allow a dog to attack or cause serious injury to a person or livestock, or to behave in such a way that makes a person worried that it might attack them.’ If a dog has strayed, attacked a person, livestock or someone else’s pet, or been out of control on land where there is livestock, warnings are given to dog owners and in some cases, fines are given: ‘Livestock worrying is a crime and can lead to a fine of £1000.’
I also find it is important to remember that not everyone likes dogs, many perceive dogs in ways that may differ from my own, so even a friendly dog running up to someone might be very distressing. Someone truly afraid may respond fearfully and injure your dog.
Furthermore, property owners can be particular about dogs on their lawn. My dog on a lead shows that I am in control, and this shows
respects to those who wish to keep their distance from the dog. It is good neighbour policy to keep dogs on leads and from becoming a nuisance to others.