Have your say on countryside matters and BBC Countryfile Magazine.
When passing through farmyards on rural footpaths, I frequently hear the sound of dogs, locked in sheds – some little more than the size of a rabbit hutch – often without windows from which to see out and often housed alone.
I witnessed this on holiday in the Lake District this summer and stayed long enough to observe that the isolated dogs can spend 23 out of 24 hours in these conditions. There are some farmers who treat the dogs as just another tool, to be put away when they are not needed and brought out only when they want to use them.
But dogs are not like a tractor or a gun. They have social needs as well as requiring the basics of life, food and shelter. Dogs are pack animals and need to belong to a family of humans or other dogs.
The RSPCA educates against rabbits being kept in solitary confinement in pens like this and certainly would not expect dogs to be housed in this way. There ought to be minimum standards that take into account the mental as well as physical wellbeing of working dogs and a culture change within the farming/hunting community to respect the needs of working dogs. Dawn Biram, Sheffield While on a WI walk in August in Buckinghamshire, we had an unexpected treat. We had been walking for a couple of hours when we found ourselves at the back of the group. Entering a large corn field through a gap in the hedge, my wife froze and beckoned us to be quiet. Sitting about 15 metres from us, in the space between the corn and the hedge, eating leaves from the bushes, was this large white wallaby. Having just read a recent newspaper article regarding a Bennett’s wallaby in the area, we were in no doubt what we had found. It studied us and then calmly carried on eating. As we continued to watch it for the next five minutes, it posed for lots of photos. Local residents believe that the wallabies possibly escaped from the Flamingo Gardens and Zoological Park, which used to be at Weston Underwood.
Editor Fergus Collins replies:
What a fascinating photograph – many thanks for sending it to us. There are reliable reports of several red-necked wallaby colonies in Britain, from Staffordshire to the Fens to Ashdown Forest in Sussex. As you say, these are escapees from private collections.
LEFT The albino wallaby in a field in front of the church spire of St James the Great church at Hanslope, Bucks