Take a look at the pictures below, they show a field stile that leads from a country lane into field that has a public way through it. The farmer decided he did not like people walking through his field with dogs and so without consultation decided to block up the lower part of the stile. Never mind the fact that the field was only rented, this so-called farmer was under the impression that dogs spread liver fluke because a few of his cattle had their livers condemned at the abattoir.
You can also see some vicious spikes pointing through the second space of the stile. This matter was reported to the Public Rights of Way Department in April, pointing out the hazards it posed. And guess what? - nothing happened and the stile remained in its dangerous state.
That is until Tuesday 13th of June 2006 and that was when our dog Zeb was taken for a walk through the field. My wife was physically unable to lift him over the stile and so he jumped over and caught his leg. This resulted in him landing in the road yelping in agony and unable to use his back, left leg. Zeb was carried home and taken to the vets who informed us that the dog had probably ruptured his cruciate ligament.
After a week of limping around on three legs another consultation with the vet has resulted in an operation on the damaged limb. The prognosis is that he probably will regain some use of the leg but will have a limp. Thanks to the farmer a young, very athletic dog is now a cripple.
Guess what, after once again reporting this to the Public Rights of Way Department they finally went to inspect the stile roughly at about the same time as Zeb was undergoing surgery. I would imagine the whole cost of the treatment is going to be around £600, ok we didn't have insurance and the money is nothing compared to Zeb's recovery but what a needless waste. If people had done their job properly then the hazard should have been removed months ago. And the farmer gets away scott free with possibly a reprimand for his thoughtless actions.
My first reaction is to take a pickaxe handle, pay the farmer a visit and cripple him for life but then who would pay the mortgage whilst I was languishing in Dartmoor Prison, I don't think the insurance covers such eventualities.
Nine times out of ten I have a lot of sympathy with farmers and how they manage access to their land. Sadly the few ignorant bastards spoil it for everybody else. Yes, I could take legal action and possibly get some recompense but will that take away the permanent limp? No it won't, so the best to hope for is that the stile is restored to its original condition thus preventing any further injury to dogs or people.
I really wish I could have taken a photograph of the puzzled and petrified look on Zeb's face as the veterinary nurse led him away, it simply said, why? Maybe if the farmer saw that he would think twice against taking such action on people who were simply taking their dogs for a legal walk. Do you know, every time you picked up Zeb's lead he would literally leap three or feet vertically in the air with excitement - he won't be doing that anymore.
Thanks a Bunch Mr. Farmer!
Believe me, that particular farmer won't realise there were so many DEFRA departments to inspect the various aspects of his farming. Every time I see a sheep limp, a cow with a missing ear tag or anything amiss it will be reported.
It is now 17 months later and following an excellent job done by the vet Zeb is almost fully recovered, occasionally on cold mornings he will still limp but it does not stop him hurtling around at speed. The stile is still blocked despite two attempts at rearranging it with a saw, but the dog has regained his confidence and now effortlessly leaps over the stile. The only things that have changed is that the council have places two signs demanding that all dogs are kept on a lead and their mess is picked up which is fair enough, maybe a bit of give and take should be in order - give the dog owners a new stile and they will take their dog mess home with them.