Pictured above: CLA South East Regional Director Michael Valenzia

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is warning of a spike in dog attacks as ‘pandemic puppies’ are set to visit the countryside for the first time, coinciding with the peak of the lambing season.

As dog attacks are up 10% compared to last year, the CLA – in line with the relaunched Countryside Code – is offering advice for dog walks in the countryside, to help the 2.2m new dog owners understand how to protect their pet while keeping farm animals safe.

This includes calls for owners to pick up dog faeces to avoid the spread of Neosporosis, an infectious disease of animals caused by the Neospora caninum parasite that causes abortion and stillbirth among dairy and beef cattle.

The CLA, which represents thousands of farmers and rural businesses across Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight, recommends dog walkers take the following action:

· Ensure your dog is under control; keep your dog on a lead and only let go if you are chased by livestock

· Never let your dog worry or chase wildlife or livestock. Follow advice on local signs to reduce disturbance to plants and animals.

· Prevent your dog from approaching horse riders, cyclists, or other people and their dogs uninvited.

· Keep your dog with you on paths or access land and don’t let it stray into crops including fields of grass, fruit and vegetables.

· Never leave bags of dog poo lying around, even if you intend to pick them up later. Containers and deodorised bags can make them easier to carry.

· Ensure your details are on your dog’s collar and it is microchipped, so you can be reunited quickly if it is lost.

A lack of education around the Countryside Code has left some visitors without a basic understanding of what is acceptable behaviour. The CLA continues to campaign for the Code to be taught in schools across the region.

CLA South East Regional Director Michael Valenzia, pictured at top of page, said: “Getting a new puppy is an exciting time for everyone, although it is also a huge learning curve. Part of that learning curve is teaching your dog how to interact with other animals safely. But worryingly, a third of dogs bought during lockdown have never even visited a park, let alone a working farm.

“With lockdown restrictions easing up as the crucial lambing season is hitting its peak, we want to help inform the millions of people on how to protect their dog and keep farm animals safe, allowing everyone to enjoy the countryside together.

“The Countryside Code is generally adhered to by the majority of people, but there can be incidents of anti-social behaviour or a lack of awareness of the working countryside. All visitors should be conscious that the countryside is a place of work where the land, livestock, machinery, wildlife and environment must be respected.”

“Over the past year, we’ve all come to value the importance of getting outside for our mental and physical wellbeing. Farmers and landowners are looking forward to welcoming the public to make the most of the 150,000 miles of public rights of way in Great Britain. We hope that by reading our advice visitors can respect the local environment while staying safe.”

CLA South East represents thousands of farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight.

For more information about the CLA and its work, visit www.cla.org.uk/your-area/south-east/regional-news and follow @CLASouthEast on Twitter.

By Ed