KC Dog for local authorities

KC Dog for local authorities

The Kennel Club is the leading canine authority on dog access to open spaces, in both urban and rural environments. As we run the largest national dog owners group, KC Dog, 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.  'Where a PSPO will affect dog owners or walkers e.g. by restricting access to all or certain parts of a park, the local authority should consult with them. This can be done through engaging with national organisations, such as the Kennel Club.' (Defra, 'Dealing with irresponsible dog ownership Practitioner's manual', 2014)

Our core objective is to protect fair access for dog walkers to public spaces, however, we are not opposed to all restrictions on dog owners and walkers. The guiding principle by which we work by is to seek the least restrictive approach to achieve the desired reduction in problems associated with dogs.

This could mean introducing restrictions which are limited to specific times of day and/or months of the year, alternatively it may be that by positively engaging with the local dog walking community might be more effective than introducing restrictions - we can help with this too.

The Kennel Club is always willing to discuss with local authorities potential solutions to dog related issues they are facing. We can provide advice on Public Spaces Protection Orders, Dog Control Orders (we strongly recommend contacting us prior to the launch of formal consultations) and other dog management approaches. We can be contacted by email at kcdog@thekennelclub.org.uk or on 020 7518 1020.

Here are some suggested measures that local authorities can take to deal with common problems:

Dog fouling

The Kennel Club strongly promotes responsible dog ownership, and believes that dog owners should always pick up after their dogs. We believe introducing a legal requirement to pick up and dispose of dog waste is a sensible measure, one which we support.

Dog owners should be picking up after their dog regardless of whether they are in an urban park or wider countryside. The two main exceptions to this are when there is a clear indication from the landowner to the contrary, or if the dog walker is physically unable to comply due to disability (we can provide further information and example wording for legal orders on request).

Alongside creating offences we would encourage local authorities to employ proactive measures to help promote responsible dog ownership throughout the local area. Which can include: increasing the number of bins available for dog owners to use or relocating existing bins to more appropriate locations; communicating to local dog owners that bagged dog poo can be disposed of in normal litter bins; running responsible ownership and training events; or using poster campaigns to encourage dog owners to pick up after their dog.

Examples of successful anti-dog fouling campaigns include:

1) Jersey saw fouling incidents at some 'hotspots' reduce by 88% using their proud to pick up campaign. The results of their campaign are highlighted here and campaign resources can be viewed here.

2) Keep Britain Tidy (England) have run a 'we're watching you' poster campaign with a number of local authorities some reporting fouling falling by up to 91%, please click here for further information.

3) West Suffolk Council recently ran a dog fouling pilot in Wickhambrook which used posters alongside bag dispensers and saw over 50% reduction in their fouling - for further information please click here.

Toxocariasis

The Kennel Club often sees reference to Toxocariasis in relation to dog waste. Toxocariasis is a potentially serious infection that is linked to dog, cat and fox excrement.

Toxocariasis is a very rare infection with an average number of confirmed Toxocariasis cases in the UK is 4.5 per year. To put this into context on average for every one confirmed case, five people die from falling out of bed, and ten people are struck by lightning in the UK. It is also important to note that the overwhelming majority of Toxocariasis infections result in either no noticeable or minor symptoms, with no lasting effects.

We have created a FAQ document on Toxocariasis which can be downloaded here.

Engaging positively with the dog owning community

Many local authorities have established 'Green Dog Walkers' schemes to reduce levels of dog fouling. The scheme operates by engaging with the dog walking community to act as voluntary ambassadors who encourage responsible behaviour by other dog walkers. They wear green armbands to identify themselves as someone who can provide a dog poo bag to those caught short. For further information please click here.

Dog walkers can also be engaged to tackle wider anti-social behaviour - so called 'Paws on Patrol' schemes make use of dog walkers to act as additional eyes and ears on the ground to reduce levels of crime and anti-social behaviour, for further information please click here.

Dogs running out of control in parks and open spaces

Another issue that we hear from local authorities is reports of dogs running out of control in public spaces. The Kennel Club is clear it is the responsibility of dog walkers to keep their dogs under control and not allow them to scare  people.

We accept that restrictions such as excluding dogs from enclosed children's play area, enclosed recreational facilities such as tennis courts and bowling greens are reasonable measures. Likewise requiring dogs to be kept on lead in cemeteries, and picnic areas during summer months would seem reasonable, as long as there is alternative provision for dog walkers in the vicinity.

Whilst we acknowledge that out of control dogs can cause problems, it must be placed into some context. There are approximately 8.5-9.3 million dogs in the UK, with the majority being walked off-lead at least once a day -  equating to over 3 billion dog walks per year. While it is difficult to put figures on levels of anti-social behaviour related to dogs, we can confidently say the overwhelming majority of dog walks take place without incident.

Taking this into account we urge councils to very carefully consider the need to introduce blanket restrictions, either banning dogs or requiring them to be kept on a lead in parks and other open spaces, which dog walkers would typically exercise their dogs on. In fact such blanket restrictions are often not what Government intended to come about when granting PSPO making powers to local authorities. For more information please see our report here.

Rather if it is known that problems are associated with a small number of dog walkers acting irresponsibly then we would strongly urge the use of Community Protection Notices also introduced under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act) in combination with a 'dog on lead by direction' Order. This approach offers considerable advantages; Community Protection Notices can be used to require dog owners to attend training courses which allows the underlying problem behaviour to be addressed. This should have a longer more positive affect for the local community. It also stops the actions of a minority of dog owners spoiling it for the majority, which should also eliminate the potential conflict with dog walkers in the community.

Multiple dogs being walked

The Kennel Club does not believe in imposing an arbitrary maximum number of dogs a person can walk as an appropriate The maximum number of dogs a person can walk in a controlled manner depends on a number of factors relating to the dog walker, the dogs being walked, whether leads are used and the location where the walking is taking place.

We suggest that defined outcomes are used instead to influence people walking one or more dogs, be that domestically or commercially, such as dogs always being under control, or not running up to people uninvited, on lead in certain areas etc.

If a maximum number of dogs order is being considered due to issues arising from commercial dog walkers, we instead suggest councils look at accreditation schemes that have worked very successfully in places like the East Lothian council area. These can be far more effective than numerical limits, as they can promote wanted good practice, rather than just curb the excesses of just one aspect of dog walking. Accreditation can also ensure dog walkers are properly insured and act as advocates for good behaviour by other dog owners. The Kennel Club is currently developing a national Code of Practice for Commercial Dog Walking for launch in 2017, alongside a national accreditation and training scheme that councils can work with us to apply and promote in their areas.

For any further information please contact: kcdog@thekennelclub.org.uk or read our report here.

Copyright © The Kennel Club Limited 2017. The unauthorised reproduction of text and images is strictly prohibited.