HCR Law Events

6 April 2023

Making the countryside work for everyone

Spring has sprung and many of us will be taking the opportunity to get out into the countryside to see the new-born lambs. Now is the time of year to revisit the Countryside Code, and in particular its guidance to keep dogs under control and in sight. Each year there are distressing incidents of livestock being chased by dogs, sometimes resulting in injury or death. The insurer NFU Mutual calculates that the value of claims relating to dog attacks on farm animals rose to more than £1.8m in 2022.

If a dog were to chase livestock in a public place both civil and criminal law might be relevant. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 makes it a criminal offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control, whether on private land or in a public place. Dog owners should note that it is not necessary for the dog to cause injury, provided that someone could be injured by the dog.

Anti-social behaviour legislation might also become relevant if a dog owner repeatedly allows their dog to be out of control. They might then be prevented from exercising their dog in a certain place, which could extend to private land. Under the civil law, the Animals Act 1971 imposes strict liability on the owner of a dog that chases or attacks livestock, and a claim for damages could be brought against the person in control of the dog, for losses including the cost of treating any injury to the animal.

The law of negligence also imposes a duty of care on a dog owner to take steps that are reasonable in the circumstances to reduce the risk of injury to others. Precisely what needs to be done to satisfy this duty of care will vary with the circumstances, but it could be argued that keeping a dog on a lead, or otherwise under close control around livestock, would satisfy the test, and allowing a dog to roam out of sight or without the owner being able to recall the dog safely would not.

Being safe in the countryside is really a matter of common sense and we would all do well to live by the mantras of the Countryside Code:

  • Respect everyone
  • Protect the environment
  • Enjoy the outdoors

Share this article on social media

About the Author
Esther Stirling, Partner

view my profile email me

Want news direct to you?

sign up

What is the future of the office?

show me more

Got a question?

Send us an email

Newsletter HCR featured image

Stay up to date

with our recent news