DOG-WALKERS in the Peak District National Park are asked to keep their pets on short leads to protect young animals and birds during the breeding season.
Sheep with lambs, ground-nesting birds like curlew and lapwing, and wild creatures such as hares, are easily scared by dogs running free or on extended leads.
Peak District Wader Recovery Project officer Tara Challoner said: “Spring and early summer are critical times especially for breeding birds. They need to be undisturbed to give them the best chance of laying a good number of eggs and raising as many chicks as they can.
“Birds like lapwing and snipe used to be a common sight in the countryside but they are in decline nationally. We aim to reverse this trend through the Peak District Wader Recovery Project and are working with farmers to safeguard bird breeding grounds.
“Dog-walkers can help protect the birds by keeping their dogs on a short lead on farmland and moorland.”
Dog owners have a responsibility under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act to keep their dogs on a lead around wildlife between March 1 and July 31 and at any time near farm animals.
At certain times, even dogs on leads are not allowed on some areas to protect sensitive breeding sites - owners should obey the signs.
Peak District National Park rangers remind pet-owners that by law, they must keep their dogs under control. Area manager Andy Farmer said: “We are happy to see people walking their dogs in the countryside but ask them to keep their pets on short leads until July 31.
“Legally you do not have to use a lead on public paths but we ask people to be responsible particularly during the breeding season, and always use a lead if you can’t rely on your dog’s obedience.”
To stay safe and help protect wildlife and farm animals:
•Never let a dog approach or chase wildlife and farm animals - your dog can get kicked, trampled or lost, and it could be shot for chasing livestock.
•If cattle turn on your dog, unclip the lead - a dog can usually look after itself, don’t risk getting hurt by trying to protect it. Get out of the field as quickly as possible, then call your dog as soon as you are out of danger.
To report incidents involving dogs on farmland or moors please contact the police first on 101 and subsequently the Peak District National Park Authority on 01629 816572 (weekends) and 01629 816290 (weekdays).
Specialist advice about dogs on moorland is available on www.pawsonthemoors.org or for more general advice, go to www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk.