Dog owners are being asked to take extra care as they walk in the Yorkshire Dales National Park over the next five months. Alan Hulme, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Head of Ranger Services said the breeding season for wildlife and for farm animals is now well underway and dogs can cause long-term damage if they are allowed to roam free. “This is a very sensitive time for domestic and wild animals – especially ground-nesting birds, for which the Dales are renowned,” he said. “Although dog owners say their pet never chases or attacks sheep and lambs, some do. In addition, a lot of people don’t appreciate that dogs can cause just as much harm unintentionally by keeping parents away from their young, which leaves eggs, fledglings and lambs vulnerable. “Dog owners are entitled to keep their pets off the lead on public paths although they must keep them under close control. But we would ask them to be on the safe side by keeping their pets on a lead in an effort to reduce the risk of wildlife and farm animals being unintentionally disturbed at this crucial time.” The Countryside Code contains some simple rules that pet owners must remember, the most important being that, in most areas of open country and common land – known as 'access land' – you must keep your dog on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July, and all year round near farm animals. National Park Rangers and National Park Centre staff are only too happy to give advice to anyone who is concerned about going into area that may be used as a breeding ground by wild animals. More information about the Countryside Code can be found on the National Park website at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk.