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FARM­YARD DOGS

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.

Ron New­bould,

Northamp­ton­shire

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

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