West Sussex event to raise awareness about keeping dogs on leads near livestock

Representatives of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) joined the South Downs National Park Authority, Sussex Police and Arundel and South Downs MP Andrew Griffith to raise awareness about keeping dogs on a lead around farm animals.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 3:37 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 4:10 pm

They spoke to dog walkers at the #TakeTheLead event on Friday at Whiteways car park in Bury Hill, Houghton, near Arundel.

Romy Jackson, Sussex NFU adviser, said: “Much of the downland in the South Downs National Park depends on a grazing regime, with sheep and cattle central to its management. But sadly, the number of dog attacks on farm animals remains unacceptably high and attacks are seriously impacting farmers’ livelihoods.”

She added that the NFU was seeing an above average number of people and pets in the countryside as the pandemic continues – and there has been a huge upsurge in dog ownership since the first lockdown.

West Sussex NFU chair Mark Chandler and Arundel and South Downs MP Andrew Griffith meeting dog walkers with representatives of the national park authority and Sussex Police. Picture: NFU/Scott Ramsey

Craig Daters, lead ranger for the Central Downs for the National Park, said: “We’ve been running the #TakeTheLead campaign for several years, encouraging responsible dog walking in the National Park.

“Farmers are the lifeblood of the South Downs and have continued working so hard throughout the pandemic to produce local food and care for this wonderful landscape.

“It’s nice to show appreciation by doing simple small things, such as keeping dogs on leads around livestock and picking up their poo which can be harmful to animals, especially cattle.”

MP Andrew Griffith said the #TaketheLead campaign delivers a ‘clear and simple message’ – asking owners to be responsible and only let their dogs off the lead when there is no danger to livestock or ground-nesting birds.

Farmers Andrew and Jenny Flake with ranger Oliver Seal and PCSO Erica Baxter. Picture: Eddie Mitchell

He said he will be calling on parliament for the creation of a national dog DNA database, which will help prevent the growing crime of dog theft but also have the side effect of making it easier to trace the owners of dogs who have attacked livestock.

The #TakeTheLead campaign includes the following key messages:

- Keep your dog on the lead around wildlife and livestock.

- Always bag and bin your dog’s poo – any bin will do.

Jenny Flake and son Andrew, right, of Coombes Farm, with dog walkers and National Park Authority ranger Oliver Seal

- Stick to the path and keep your dog close, particularly during ground-nesting bird season (March 1 – September 15)

- Stay out of MoD danger areas when the red flag is flying.

South Downs National Park Authority ranger Oliver Seal with farmer and NFU member Andrew Flake, of Coombes Farm, talking to a dog walker