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Ask The Legal Expert: Public Rights of Way and Cattle

View profile for Ian Rees
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Ian Rees, an Associate Solicitor with JCP’s Personal Injury team, talks about the importance, for farmers, of making sure they minimise risk to members of the public who may enter their land.

I keep my dairy cattle between fields edged by a well-used public footpath. The cows are well-behaved but I’m concerned about walkers who don't keep their dogs on leads, and those who head into my field to retrieve them. If my livestock injures a rambler am I at fault?

There have been a number of cases recently of walkers being trampled by cattle, and there are responsibilities upon you as a farmer, and upon those who use a Public Rights of Way, to make sure no-one comes to harm.

The National Farmers Union (NFU), the Countryside Code, and the Ramblers Association all give sound advice in this area, and it is wise for you to follow the NFU’s advice on this matter. The Countryside Code highlights walkers’responsibility to keep dogs on leads when they walk near livestock.

Farmers are responsible for the safety of the animals in their fields, and for members of the public who walk across their land. So you face the potential risk of civil and/or criminal proceedings if the public is injured by your cattle.

If you have concerns about a particular animal in your care which can be aggressive if spooked, you should consider whether they should be kept in a field with public access at all. Some species and breeds of bull are already prohibited from being kept near a Public Right of Way and you can be prosecuted for ignoring this prohibition.

It is wise to alert members of the public that, while they are free to use established Public Rights of Way, there are risks associated with this, particularly if they walk with dogs, or if your cows are with calves. The NFU provides some such signage to its members for free.

You can help to keep walkers safe by making sure their pathway isn't obstructed, either by overgrown vegetation or by any structure that shouldn't be there – so they don't have to take a detour into the path of any livestock.

JCP Solicitors’ Rural Practice Team has been on the NFU’s legal panel for South Wales since 2008.

For more information, contact Ian Rees on 01792  529641 or email ian.rees@

Ian is a fluent Welsh speaker and is happy to deal with clients in either Welsh or English.

Ian deals with complex Personal Injury claims, including road traffic accidents, cycling accidents, accidents at work,  and accidents in the home. Ian is focussed on achieving a good outcome for individuals who have been injured, some with life changing injuries, through no fault of their own.

The question posed in this blog is based on a hypothetical situation.