SOUTH SOMERSET NEWS: Dog walkers reminded to be responsible at Ham Hill

SOUTH SOMERSET NEWS: Dog walkers reminded to be responsible at Ham Hill

POLICE are politely reminding dog walkers to keep their animals on leads and to close gates at the Ham Hill Country Park near Yeovil.

The park is a popular spot for dog walkers but recently there have been problems with gates being wedged open allowing the livestock to escape and venture onto public highways.

There has also been a rise in the number sheep worrying/attacks by dogs off leads being reported.

PC Katy Drabble, from the rural crime team for Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said: “We are keen for people to enjoy the countryside with their pets but are urging dog walkers to keep their animals on leads around livestock and always close gates behind them.”

The park provides details of where livestock are grazing so people can ensure their dogs are on a lead when they approach those areas.

Livestock worrying is a big issue for farmers at any time of the year but particularly problematic during spring/lambing season of December to May.

PC Drabble added: “Any breed of dog can be involved in worrying livestock, even the most placid, small and friendly loving family pet.

"We take these types of incidents very seriously and will work with farmers and the local community to ensure we always trace the owners of the dogs and take appropriate action."

If your dog attacks livestock, you could end up being responsible for offences including criminal damage and sheep worrying, as well as potential prosecution for offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Farmers also have the right to shoot dogs that are worrying or attacking livestock. We don’t want anyone to lose their beloved family pet.

PC Drabble said: “The gates at Ham Hill are self-closing so there is no need for them to be wedged open with large rocks. This is a really concerning problem.

“Once livestock are loose on the highway, particularly cattle, they pose a massive risk to drivers. We do not want to be called to a serious or even fatal accident because someone has carelessly wedged a gate open without thinking about the possible consequences of their actions.”

Katy Menday, South Somerset District Council’s countryside manager, said: “It’s distressing to think that someone may be purposefully propping open our gates to allow the livestock to wander. It is irresponsible and dangerous and we are grateful to the visitors that have already reported issues to us so we can avoid the worst happening.

“It’s vital to graze the grasslands at the hill to maintain the wonderful pasture and meadows so please be our eyes and ears to help keep the country park open and safe.”

If you are out and about in the Country Park and see someone not closing a gate, or you see a gate propped open, please contact the ranger team: Paul on 07973 887129 and Kathryn on 07968 616098, or the office on 01935 823617.

If a gate needs to be left open for management reasons it will be chained open and locked so there is no confusion.