Fair access for dog walkers

 

Access to open spaces is absolutely essential for the health and wellbeing of all dogs. The Animal Welfare Act, introduced in England in 2007, places a legal responsibility on dog owners to provide a 'Duty of Care' for their pet which includes allowing an animal to exhibit normal behaviour patterns, including the ability for a dog to be exercised freely, preferably off the lead.

Since the introduction of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, local authorities have continued to restrict dogs' access to open public spaces through the use of Public Spaces Protection Orders. Under the Act, local authorities have extensive powers to place restrictions on dog walkers. Dogs can be excluded from specified areas, while owners can be obliged to keep dogs on leads, restricted to walking a maximum number of dogs and/or obliged to pick up their dog's waste. The Kennel Club believes positive solutions can be found to balance the needs of both the dog owning and non-dog owning public.

Previously these restrictions were introduced in the form of Dog Control Orders, under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

The Kennel Club runs a dog owners group, KC Dog, which was established to keep dog owners up to date about proposals for restrictions on where they can go and what they can do across the UK. The group is an information providing service and is free to join. The success of KC Dog relies on its participants keeping us up to date about proposed consultations on restrictions being introduced in their local area.  Due to its broad appeal, dog owners, dog-owning MPs, and local authorities all belong to KC Dog.

Past legislation has proved overly restrictive and has led to confusion and in some cases, non-compliance. In practice, in England and Wales, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act has led to far more restrictions on pre-existing access for dog owners, quite contrary to the Government's stated intention that the Act should enhance access opportunities.

The Kennel Club has previously campaigned to retain access for dogs to the English coastal trail introduced under the Marine & Coastal Access Act. This resulted in the Kennel Club securing amendments to the Act during its passage through Parliament which will ensure dog walkers are entitled to access the coastal trail and adjacent land such as beaches. The Kennel Club is continuing to work with Natural England and local authorities on the practical implementation of the trail to ensure the least restrictive approach is taken.

In January 2013, the government announced its response to the report from the Independent Panel on Forestry, which was published in July 2012. The Kennel Club supported the Minister's proposal of retaining the forest estate in public ownership and the recognition of the multiple benefits associated with daily walks on the public forest estate and its positive impact on all access users.

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