I was interested to read Janet Bee’s timely article warning dog owners of the problems faced by farmers in the lambing season, and agree with everything that was written.
However, it is not only in the Pentland Hills that the sheep are lambing; in the Moorfoots and right across Midlothian and Scotland there are sheep lambing; it is a sure sign that at long last the winter is nearly over.
The countryside is a working environment and people have to respect that fact, or it only leads to conflict between farmers and the public.
The Outdoor Access Code talks of keeping dogs “under close control or on a lead” at all times. It thus gives people the choice of having their dog on or off a lead; a choice which they must make responsibly.
When crossing ground where sheep are grazing, and especially where sheep are in lamb or have lambs beside them that decision should be to keep your dog on a lead. Although your dog may always have been well behaved, as Douglas Graham said in the article: “You can’t trust a dog 100%”.
The other side of the coin is what the sheep thinks; sheep are accustomed to being herded by dogs, and when they see a strange dog they may well act irrationally and in a panic – causing the dog to chase them even more. I write as a former dog owner, of a well behaved Labrador – but even she needed watching when near sheep, so was kept on a lead.
The other reason for keeping dogs on a lead in the spring is to avoid disturbing ground-nesting birds. This means from late March till the end of June, and is especially important in moorland areas.
Again, close control is not the best option; it is in the character of many dogs to chase birds – and they may inadvertently destroy nests and the young fledglings.
Please let us show the farming community that they can trust us the public to act responsibly – surely we are more responsible than our pets?
Dr John Pope
Chairman, Midlothian Access