A flock of sheep have been removed from the Dean’s Field after Cheshire West and Chester Council raised health and hygiene concerns.
The idea was to help children engage with nature but CWaC was worried the sheep could pass on E coli, which can be dangerous to toddlers in particular, unless certain precautions were put in place.
Chester Cathedral vice dean Peter Howell-Jones said it was decided to give the sheep away free of charge to a farmer’s son as putting barriers in place would have undermined the concept.
The vice dean commented: “It’s sad because we enjoyed having them there. They were only there for about five months.”
He found the intervention slightly puzzling because he understood children were allowed to pet animals down the road at the Blacon Adventure Playground and city farm.
But the vice dean jokingly reassured everyone they had not been eaten as part of ‘anybody’s roast dinner’. They had been given to a farmer’s young son to enable him to ‘have his own flock’.
Councillor Karen Shore, cabinet member, environment said in a statement: “Regulatory services officers undertook a routine Zoo Licence inspection of the Cathedral Falconry Centre in June when it was discovered that free roaming sheep had been introduced to the large grassed area to which members of the public have access as well as containing a number of items of children’s play equipment.
“Many farm animals including healthy sheep can carry the organism E coli O157 in their intestinal tracts which means that they can potentially contaminate the area they are being kept in. E coli is especially dangerous due to its low infective dose and is particularly dangerous to children under five years of age.
“At the inspection the business was advised that they needed to carry out detailed risk assessments on the possibility of the children’s play equipment and immediate area becoming contaminated by sheep faeces. In particular, the potential risks of E coli needed to be fully assessed and some changes made to ensure that any risks to the public were minimised.
“Some suggestions were put forward in line with the current guidance, including the fencing off of the sheep to prevent their access to the play area to avoid possible environmental contamination. We routinely work with many animal-based businesses and seek to provide the best advice to allow them to prosper and grow in the community whilst ensuring that the health and safety of visitors is paramount and the welfare of the animals is not compromised.
“The removal of the sheep from Deans Field was deemed to be the best course of action by the business itself and was not imposed by the council.”