Protecting dog owners' rights

Puppy beagle laying on floor

The Kennel Club campaigns for dogs to enjoy maximum access to the UK's open spaces. We do not oppose restrictions, as long as they are evidence based and proportionate and, in cases where access is restricted, that alternative suitable space is provided for owners and their dogs.

As part of its external affairs activities, The Kennel Club monitors dog-related issues, including Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) being introduced across England and Wales. In Northern Ireland Dog Control Orders are used to restrict access for dog walkers. There is no direct equivalent in Scotland.

As a result, we are the only national organisation named by the Government as a body that local authorities should consider consulting when introducing restrictions on dog walkers.

The Kennel Club engages with councils to discuss problems and possible solutions to avoid the introduction of restrictions. Detailed studies have shown that greater compliance can be achieved by engaging positively with dog owners through themes that are important to them.

These positive alternatives embody the principle of integrated access management, which recognises the many benefits dogs bring to society and ensures they are balanced against the need to address dog associated issues.

Current legislation

Under the Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act 2005, local authorities were given the power to introduce dog control orders (DCOs) in order to address dog-related issues in open spaces. The DCOs can include dog exclusion orders, dogs on lead orders, dogs on lead by direction orders, removing dog foul orders and orders limiting the number of dogs walked by one person. Any proposed DCOs must be advertised for consultation in local newspapers.

Whilst no record is held regarding how many DCOs have been implemented in England and Wales, access officers in local authorities have indicated that there has been an increasing amount of restrictions placed on dog owners every year. This trend has impacted on dog walkers, some of whom have been dispersed onto sensitive land which has caused wider negative effects to both plant and animal life and thereby causing further restrictions being placed on dogs and their owners.

From 20 October 2014, Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) were introduced under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to replace DCOs. The local authorities have similar powers to introduce orders, except there is no requirement for them to advertise PSPO consultations in local newspapers.

In Northern Ireland local authorities were provided the power to introduce DCOs under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.

The Kennel Club's recommendations to Government
  • Record information relating to PSPOs from local authorities
  • Require local authorities to positively engage with local dog owners when introducing PSPOs
  • Conduct a formal post-legislative scrutiny review of the anti-social behaviour measures contained within the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014

Get involved

With over 8 million dogs in the UK, the dog-owning population accounts for approximately 25% of the British public, meaning that dog issues can have widespread voting appeal.

The way to keep politicians interested in canine welfare is to speak to them about your concerns on a particular issue, e.g. dog walking access, dangerous dogs, puppy farming etc., and ask for their help. You can do this via email, a letter or even a meeting.

The key is to keep their mailbags full with dog issues to ensure that as your elected representative, they keep up to date with the issues that are most important to you, their constituent.

If there is an issue you feel strongly about, write a letter to your parliamentary representative lending your support to one of our many campaigns and letting them know how they can help. Your emails and letters don't need to be long, in fact, the shorter the better as politicians are very busy. By doing this you will be playing your part in keeping the welfare of dogs on the political agenda.

Our guide to letter writing
Writing to your Member of Parliament at Westminster (MP), Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP), Welsh Assembly Member (AM), or Northern Ireland Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) will inform individual politicians about important campaigns and therefore enable pressing issues to be taken up in parliament much more effectively.

While we know that it is much easier simply to copy a letter and send it off, your parliamentary representative is far more likely to take notice if you write your own letter. Use the guideline below to draft your own letter:

[YOUR HOUSE NUMBER AND STREET]
[TOWN]
[COUNTY]
[POST CODE]

[EMAIL ADDRESS]

[PHONE NO.]


[NAME OF POLITICIAN]
[PARLIAMENT OR ASSEMBLY ADDRESS]
[DATE]

Dear XXXXXXX,

Paragraph 1: Why you are writing
The first paragraph of your letter should always introduce your concerns to your parliamentary representative. For example:
‘I am writing to you regarding the issue of [INSERT TOPIC], to ask that you support The Kennel Club’s campaign to...’
(This information can be found on the relevant campaign page of our website.)

Paragraph 2: What you want to change
Each of the campaign’s pages on The Kennel Club’s website outlines the organisation’s official position and what is being done to try and push for change. This information can act as a guideline for telling your parliamentary representative how existing legislation needs to be amended.

If you are writing to request that your parliamentary representative support The Kennel Club on a specific issue, you may wish to use something along the lines of the following wording as an introduction to the paragraph:

‘The Kennel Club acts as a voice for thousands of dog owners across the United Kingdom. Supported by its vast expertise and experience on dog-related matters, The Kennel Club is proposing the following…’

…then write a bullet-point list into your letter.

Paragraph 3: Why these changes are necessary
Providing politicians with evidence will demonstrate that your concerns are valid. Use facts and figures to support your argument, and describe any personal experiences that you may have had to make your case even more powerful.

Paragraph 4: Action points
Tell your parliamentary representative the line of action that you wish them to take on this matter. This could be taking the matter up with their party, raising the issue in parliament, signing an EDM or supporting a specific Bill. If you are unsure what to write in this paragraph, contact The Kennel Club's public affairs team for advice.

Paragraph 5: Signing off
Request a reply. You may also wish to arrange a face-to-face meeting to discuss the issue further. Then all that is left to do is sign off:

‘I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,
[INSERT YOUR NAME]’

Once you have received a reply
To help keep us up-to-date on which politicians are aware/supportive of our campaigns, please photocopy or summarise the response you receive and send it to us by email or by post to: The Kennel Club Public Affairs, 1-5 Clarges Street, Piccadilly, London, W1J 8AB.

If your parliamentary representative has agreed to meet with you, read our guide to a successful meeting with parliamentary representatives below.
Our guide to a successful meeting with parliamentary representatives
Attending the surgery of your Member of Parliament at Westminster (MP), Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP), Welsh Assembly Member (AM), or Northern Ireland Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) will be the most powerful way of making them aware of pressing canine issues, enabling them to be taken up in parliament much more efficiently.

Most parliamentary representatives hold surgeries where constituents can meet them face to face. Sometimes notices of surgeries appear in local newspapers, but if not you can contact your MP, MSP, AM or MLA’s office directly to book your appointment in advance.

Five steps to success

  1. Preparation is key. Make a list of questions/topic areas that you want to discuss with your parliamentary representative. Go armed with facts and figures to support your argument. You should also take a notepad and pen to write down any important points for reference
  2. Be direct. Introduce yourself and what you are there to discuss. State your concerns clearly, countering any opposing points that they may make. Do not become emotional – you will make a stronger argument by being calm and reasonable throughout
  3. Listen and respond constructively. Once you have made your position, allow your MP/MSP/AM/MLA to present you with his/hers. Listen carefully for areas of agreement and disagreement, always be positive and try to ask questions that will probe their personal viewpoint rather than that of their party
  4. Be aware of time. Stick to the issue and try not to get sidetracked into general debate - you will have a limited amount of time with him/her and it is important to make sure you get across all the points you wish to make
  5. At the end of the meeting and beyond… Thank them for the meeting, summarise your discussion and outline the steps you can take going forward. Let them know that they can contact you in the future to discuss the issue further.
Follow up the meeting by writing a thank you letter, summarising your visit and any actions that your MP/MSP/AM/MLA has offered to take. You could also contact them again after a month to see what progress has been made. This will also help to keep the issue fresh in their mind.

For further information or advice, please contact The Kennel Club public affairs department on 020 7518 1020 or by email.
Contact your parliamentary representative

KC Dog report: Out of Order, the Impact of Access Restrictions on Dogs and their Owners

We have published a report into the impact of Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), and other access restrictions on dog walkers. Highlighting good and bad practice, it contains recommendations for both government and local authorities to reduce the risk of unfair and disproportionate restrictions on responsible dog walkers.