Farming union NFU Scotland (NFUS) has launched a campaign – #walkieswithoutworries – encouraging dog owners to act responsibly when visiting the countryside.
The union said the campaign was launched to coincide with an anticipated surge in visitors to the countryside at Easter and as Covid-19 restrictions ease.
It said the campaign, which will run on social media, features five simple infographic messages for dog walkers and members of the public.
People are urged to keep dogs on a lead around sheep and be aware that cattle can be dangerous; to choose alternative routes rather than fields of young calves or lambs; to pick up dog waste and dispose of it responsibly; to leave gates as they find them; and to prevent dogs from disturbing local wildlife and ground-nesting birds.
“We want to support the public, especially those who are new dog owners or new to the countryside, by giving clear messages so they can have #walkieswithoutworries,” said Lanarkshire farmer Tom French, who chairs the NFUS legal and technical committee.
“We encourage our members and those working and living in the countryside to share the infographics on social media so that there is less likelihood of worries for them.”
He said the campaign also coincided with the launch of NFU Scotland’s new online access information hub, available on its website at www.nfus.org.uk. It features useful information on access rights, downloadable resources such as posters, and a portal for farmers and crofters to access any problems they have with access.
Both the campaign and access hub were the brainchild of NFUS regional manager for Ayrshire, Christine Cuthbertson.
She encouraged farmers to get involved and said: “From speaking with our members, I was very aware of increased access being taken with dogs over the last 12 months.
“I wanted our farmers and crofters to have easy access to support and guidance via the access information hub as well as helping dog owners to have a safe and enjoyable walk in our beautiful country.”
Meanwhile, landowners body Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) is urging dog walkers and visitors to the countryside to keep their dogs under control, not disturb wildlife, and to take litter home.
It follows a rise in incidents of littering, anti-social behaviour, vandalism and fly-tipping in rural Scotland since the start of the pandemic.
SLE chief executive, Sarah-Jane Laing, said: “With lockdown restrictions just beginning to ease, we still expect many people to be spending their free time out walking in the countryside.
“Our message on behalf of farmers and land managers is to enjoy our rural areas but remember to do so responsibly and respectfully.”
She added: “Rural Scotland will be welcoming to visitors and access takers – we just ask the public to be mindful to take care in the countryside over the Easter period and in the months that lie ahead.”