The death last month of a dog walker on the Pennine Way in Yorkshire has highlighted the dangers of cattle, particularly when dogs are present. In the incident last month it appears that cows were panicked by the sight of the walker’s two dogs and stampeded, trampling the walker to death. The cows behaved aggressively because they were with their calves. Former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, was injured earlier in June by a charging cow when he was out walking with his guide dog, and another dog walker was killed by stampeding cattle in Suffolk last year.

The advice in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code is not to take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals. However, if you go into a field where cattle act aggressively and move towards you, the advice is that you should let the dog go and take the shortest, safest route out of the field.

The Health and Safety Executive has issued guidance on cattle and public access in Scotland (Agriculture Information Sheet No 17S). This advises farmers on the precautions they can take to ensure the safety of the public.

If a walker is injured by cattle, the farmer may have to pay compensation if he has not taken adequate precautions to protect the public. In a recent English court case (Shirley McKaskie v John Cameron, Blackpool County Court, 1st July 2009) a dog walker successfully sued a farmer for damages for injuries she suffered when attacked by a herd of cows as she was crossing a field.