THE CLA (Country Land and Business Association) is urging dog owners and walkers in the North of England to ensure their pets are under control around livestock and arable fields to avoid risking animal welfare and damage to crops.

The call comes ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's planned announcement due this Sunday, which is expected to include an easing of restrictions on people’s movements.

This could potentially lead to an increase in dog owners and walkers using our countryside.

It follows reports numerous farmers have suffered abuse by walkers not sticking to footpaths, trampling on crops, and not keeping their dogs on leads around livestock.

CLA Director North Dorothy Fairburn said: “The CLA recognises the enormous benefits to the nation's wellbeing from being out in the countryside and close to nature.

"It is one of the most important 'public goods' provided by farmers and landowners.”

“Visitors to the countryside should maintain social distancing and not veer off sign-posted footpaths.

"Those using the countryside should, especially under current circumstances, be conscious that the countryside is also a place of work where the land, livestock, machinery, wildlife and environment must be respected.”

“We would advise owners to keep their dogs on a lead or under close control when walking through fields of livestock, particularly sheep at this time of year, and to always stick to public rights of ways.

“It is also important that dogs should also be adequately controlled in arable fields.

"It is simply irresponsible to let dogs roam free, causing damage to crops that contribute to the country’s food supply.”

“There are a few worrying trends either based on anti-social behaviour or a lack of awareness of the working countryside.”