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Scotland: Home of the Free. That's what Braveheart would have said, anyway - and lots of people would agree, due to the fact that there is no law of trespass in Scotland. If you're one of these people, you'll be pleased to know that you're mainly correct - you can walk pretty much anywhere in Scotland, as there are statutory rights of public access which apply over most areas of land in the country. Furthermore, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code is another document which emphasises this freedom. Great news, you might be thinking - especially if you and your dog enjoy getting out and exploring! Well yes, but as a dog owner, it is a little more complicated than that. To ensure that you and your dog enjoy the freedom you deserve, you need to have an awareness of how the Scottish Outdoor Access Code applies to you. Read on for a summary of the SOAC and how this relates to your dog.
Well, it's a document written to remind everyone of how to enjoy the great Scottish outdoors. It has three main aims at heart; it wants us to 1) take responsibility for ourselves and our actions, 2) respect the interests of other people, and 3) ensure that we care for the environment. Needless to say, all these things need to be considered when we take our dogs out - it's crucial, therefore, that all dog owners understand what they can and can't do, to make sure that we use our 'right to roam' responsibly.
The main reason is that dogs which aren't kept under proper control can be a menace to some people who have an interest in the countryside around them. Dogs can worry animals such as sheep or cows and they can have a negative effect on the health of other animals in the countryside, especially farm livestock. Furthermore, dogs can cause lambs to be separated from their mothers, and can also cause some pregnant animals (such as ewes) to miscarry. It is vital, therefore, that dog owners keep close control of their animals in five key areas.
There is no specific definition of what 'under close control' means. However, it is expected that, if your dog is under close control, he will be able to respond to and obey your commands immediately. If you are not confident that your dog will, for example, sit or lie down on command, you should keep your dog on a short lead. A 'short lead', for the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, is defined as 2m or less. These are available at all good pet shops - and anything longer than this causes significant problems in urban areas too! A lead of 2m or less is therefore a good investment for any dog owner, whether or not they intend to walk their dog in Scotland.
Dog owners should avoid fields containing fruit and vegetables, unless they are able to follow a dedicated path. This is mainly due to the health risks that a dog's faeces might carry. And, of course, dog owners should always act responsibly if their dog fouls in any area - it's always safest to carry a few 'doggie bags'.
It is worth remembering that, under the Scottish Animals Act of 1987, a farmer could have the right to shoot your dog if it is attacking his animals. But we know that no responsible dog owner would want to deliberately flout the rules of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code -it's written not to deliberately hamper the enjoyment of dog owners, but simply to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy the great Scottish outdoors!
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