Staying safe in the countryside

A stroll in the countryside is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, particularly as the weather gets warmer, but for an unlucky few it ends in tragedy.

Late last year, a married couple in their 60s were walking near the border of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire when they were attacked by a bull. The man was pronounced dead at the scene, while the woman managed to hide under a hedge and was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

It’s still not known why the bull, which was contained and put down by the farmer, attacked and unfortunately it is not the only incident of its kind to have been seen in the UK in recent years.

Following the tragic accident, the walking charity Ramblers called for the government to take another look at the legislation in place regarding bulls in fields.

Rachel Alcock, Ramblers campaigns officer, said the organisation was concerned that there is no guarantee that “safe” breeds of bull allowed to be kept near public footpaths were actually safe.  

Under current regulations, bulls of certain breeds and solitary animals cannot be kept in fields with hiking trails running through them.

“With new breeds of bull being introduced, and changing livestock temperaments being observed, it seems that now is the time to review legislation to ensure the safety and best interests of the public,” she added.

It’s not just bulls which pose a risk to unsuspecting walkers either, and Ramblers has also produced some guidance for those walking near livestock to ensure they minimise their chances of being attacked.

Hikers should ensure they walk quickly and quietly around animals and be prepared for livestock to react to their presence.

If hikers have a dog with them, it should be kept on a lead and under close control. Many incidences of people being attacked occur while they are walking their dog.

During the summer months, cows and calves tend to graze together in fields, and this is when walkers need to be particularly vigilant.

If hikers do find themselves feeling threatened by cattle, Ramblers stress it is imperative they don’t panic or run, but walk away calmly, as most cows will stop before they reach them. Dog walkers should let their animal go if they feel like they are going to be attacked, as the cattle is more likely to chase after it.

For those who do get injured after being attacked by animals, there are forms of redress available.

In 2009 a judge ordered a farmer to pay Shirley McKaskie £250,000 in compensation after an attack from cows on his land which left her with brain damage and forced to use a wheelchair.

Ms McKaskie was walking her Jack Russell in Cumbria when the herd attacked, leaving her with a broken arm, broken ribs and bruising, and needing emergency brain surgery.

Judge Nigel Howarth said although Ms McKaskie had strayed from the designated footpath, farmer John Cameron still breached his duty of care, as he knew walkers would be entering the field.

The path was also said to have been covered in nettles, which meant users had to walk around them, and no sign was in place to detail the correct route which should be taken.

Mr Cameron said he would appeal the £250,000 compensation ruling, which was much lower than the original £1 million compensation claim the injured party had asked for.

It is possible that the ruling could set a precedent in such cases, but the judge said all incidents, and the claims for injury that resulted, would still be considered on a case by case basis.

The information provided herein is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice.  If you require specialist advice on whether you can claim compensation for injury please contact our legal helpline on 01329 227974 or by completing the on-line claim form.

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Staying safe in the countryside
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