'Unfair' and 'unacceptable' byelaws set to penalise dog walkers in Dartmoor National Park

The Kennel Club is urging Devon-based dog owners and visitors to respond to the Dartmoor National Park Authority consultation and oppose new byelaws that would unfairly penalise dog walkers.

If approved, the new local byelaws could see owners being fined £500 for various dog-related ‘offences’, including ‘causing annoyance’ to any person, regardless of whether there are ‘reasonable grounds’.

Existing byelaws currently state owners must prevent dogs from behaving in a manner which gives ‘reasonable grounds for annoyance’, but the National Park Authority is proposing to remove the requirement for there to be ‘reasonable grounds’, which could result in dog owners being fined £500 should their dog’s behaviour, appearance or even presence cause ‘annoyance’ to anyone.

Additionally, dog owners will be prohibited from walking their dog off-lead over large areas of Dartmoor National Park between 1 March and 31 July each year.

“We are extremely concerned both by the byelaws being proposed and the manner by which the changes are being introduced,” commented Dr Ed Hayes, Head of Public Affairs at The Kennel Club.

“Removing the requirement for there to be ‘reasonable grounds’ for causing ‘annoyance’ to another park visitor is a completely unjustified change, and we can only assume that the Dartmoor National Park Authority would like the ability to take enforcement action against dog walkers in instances where their dog’s behaviour is entirely reasonable.

“Should this change be come into force, dog walkers visiting Dartmoor would run the risk of being hit with a £500 fine should any other person find their dog’s behaviour, appearance or even presence ‘annoying’. Imagine going for a walk in your local park or high street and being told you’re going to be subject to legal proceedings, with the potential of a £500 fine, purely because someone else found you annoying for any reason at all? It simply wouldn’t be, and isn’t, acceptable.

“We also have concerns that the proposals requiring dogs to be kept on a lead from 1 March to 31 July across large swathes of Dartmoor, regardless of the presence of livestock or ground nesting birds, will result in dog walkers being displaced onto areas where these animals are present. While these proposals might simplify enforcement within the National Park, it could easily make the overall situation worse.”

The Kennel Club has also outlined concerns that the consultation process around these changes lacks transparency and openness.

Dr Hayes continued: “The National Park Authority has also failed to include reference to the proposed removal of the requirement of ‘reasonable grounds’ for causing ‘annoyance’ within the otherwise comprehensive consultation, thereby limiting the ability for dog walkers to voice their concerns over the proposals. Whether by design or by oversight, dog walkers who take the time to respond to the consultation may have no idea that such a significant and excessive measure is being proposed.

“We would like to urge local residents and anyone who enjoys the beauty of Dartmoor National Park to respond to the consultation and get involved. It is important we ensure dog owners’ rights to responsibly exercise their dog in the park are protected, and that any new byelaws are clear, easy to follow and most importantly of all, fair.”

To learn more about the consultation and submit a comment, visit Dartmoor National Park’s website.

More information about The Kennel Club’s campaigns about countryside access and responsible dog walking can be found on campaigns section of the The Kennel Club website.