I AM not a farmer and am a dog walker.

Philip Berry’s letter requests that “the law be changed so that dogs are compelled to be on leads whilst on agricultural land”.

Most of our countryside is agricultural land, including our commons.

This would target the responsible dog owners and raise the difficulty of enforcement on others.

There would also be the issue of accidents, as happened to the farmer whose dog was panicked by fireworks and killed on the motorway.

I use a lead by roads and near livestock, and I support totally the requirement to bag the dog’s faeces.

However, to deny a dog the chance to run in a field or wood seems as cruel as the practices of intensive animal rearing.

Existing laws are helpful.

Dogs are included as a “natural accompaniment” to walkers on a footpath (Highways Act, 1980).

Therefore, farmers are entitled to ask walkers to restrict their dogs to the footpath, not to chase sticks and leave them to jam the mower’s cutter bar, nor to leave faeces on the windrows of grass cut for silage.

Faeces are a major issue, but may show the way forward.

NHS records that the three forms of toxocara have declined dramatically, including the form affecting eyesight.

This is due to the sustained efforts to persuade dog and cat owners to worm their animals.

However, there is now the risk of neosporosis which causes cows to abort their calves.

Dogs and cattle can pass neosporosis to each other, so it is in everyone’s interests to restrict dogs near livestock.

I question whether professional walkers with several dogs can provide the necessary close supervision.

My impression is that the law about bagging and removing faeces is working.

Amounts of unbagged poo are declining, as are the bags which are filled and then abandoned.

With all dog issues, I believe that continued education and enforcement should prevail.

For the irresponsible, perhaps we should ask for compulsory re-education as happens with irresponsible car drivers.

Enforcement is the problem, but most people can take photos from mobile ‘phones and pass them to dog wardens.

Walkers test the patience and goodwill of farmers and if we are to continue to enjoy our footpaths we need to recognise that they have a right to farm and we have an obligation to behave responsibly or provoke laws which we will not like.

J Graham

King’s Stanley