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Dog walkers: beware of attacks by cows

Dog walkers are being warned to take extra care while out in the countryside where cattle are grazing, after an elderly man was killed by a herd of cows.

The man and his wife, who was left badly bruised by the incident, were walking in the Yorkshire Dales near Ingleton, North Yorkshire, when they were attacked.

The Ramblers Association advise that cows see dogs as a much greater threat than humans and will instinctively become more aggressive when protecting their calves.

Sharon Woods of the Ramblers Association, said: “spring and early summer are when cows feel more vulnerable to interlopers, but they can be spooked into reacting at any time of the year.”

Grazing cows are a common sight in our countryside and most people have an image of harmless, docile creatures. But, in reality cows are considered to be the most dangerous large animal in Britain.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), cows have killed 77 people in the past 15 years. The majority of these were farm workers, but the rest were people walking their dogs on public footpaths or commonly used rights of way.

When you consider that the average cow weighs around 1,000lbs, being trampled or crushed is a real danger if you’re unlucky enough to be in the wrong place.

In 2009 a woman walking her dog on the Pennine Way in the Yorkshire Dales was trampled to death by cows. Police believe the animals became aggressive after being frightened by the dogs.

In a mirror incident in 2014, a man was trampled to death in Derbyshire while out walking his dogs. The man was airlifted to hospital, but died of his injuries.

More recently, a dog walker in Leicester said she was lucky to be alive after a herd of cows and young bullocks charged at her while she was using a public footpath across a farmer’s field. Although terrified for her safety, she managed to escape without major injury.

The HSE said that 70 per cent of the deaths involved a bull or a newly calved cow. As a precaution, they have reissued guidance to farmers, advising them not to put cows and their calves in fields that are accessible by the public.

Katrina Elsey, personal injury lawyer, commented: “A lot of people are out walking in the countryside at the moment, taking advantage of the nice weather, and they should take particular care where cattle are grazing.

“Unfortunately, I have dealt with several cases where people have been trampled by cows and have suffered serious injuries. “

The laws that can apply

The Occupiers Liability Acts 1957 and 1984 provide that the “occupier” of premises owes a duty to take such care as is reasonable in the circumstances to see a visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for which he is permitted to be there.

Therefore, a landowner is under a duty to ensure that those who walk across their fields where livestock graze are reasonably safe.

The Animals Act 1971 provides further protection; in certain circumstances the keeper/owner of an animal can be held strictly liable for the damage done by their animal.