Are the proposed laws to be enforced at popular dog walking parks and reserves fair?

We love to take our dogs for walks.  Not only are walks in open spaces vital for dog health, there are well documented benefits for humans as well.  As well as improved fitness levels, walking one’s dog improves general wellbeing.  An important part of this is the opportunity to socialise with other dogs and walkers, and feeling part of this community.

There are millions of visits each year by dogs to parks and reserves across the UK. Walking dogs on the lead is necessary in most public places, so having somewhere to let your dog run freely and play openly with other dogs is why these parks and reserves are so popular.

An estimated 220,000 dog walkers visit Burnham Beeches each year, which explains the reaction to recent plans by The City of London Corporation to introduce new ‘Dog Control Orders’ at the popular reserve.  Worried dog owner fear that if successful, these plans could extend further across the Corporation’s other walking areas including Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, Ashtead, Kenley and Coulsdon Commons.

Dogs do have an impact and this impact needs to be monitored by the authorities.  For example, the habitats and species in parks and reserves need to be considered, as well as other visitors without dogs (there are 585,000 visitors in total to the Beeches reserve each year).

Most dog walkers are responsible and it seems a shame that the small group who are not cause problems which result in an increase in enforcement.  Rangers apparently deal with socially unacceptable dog-related incidents each week.  The incidents range from dogs’ faeces being left to dogs rearing up against people and even the ‘savaging’ of wildlife, including deer.

Unfortunately it seems that these incidents are becoming more and more frequent which is why a more enforceable approach is being planned.

While the whole of Burnham Beeches will be open to dogs, the new proposal means that there will only be 220 acres of the reserve where dogs can be off lead while the rest (60%) of the reserve with the most fragile habitats will remain open for dogs only on leads, providing an area for wildlife and walkers who do not want to interact with dogs.

Dog owners will be required to:

  • pick up after their pet
  • keep their dog on a lead (5m or less) in designated areas
  • put their dog on a lead (5m or less) if requested by an authorised officer
  • observe the existing dog-free zone at the Beeches Café
  • Walk no more than four dogs at any one time

Failure to comply may result in a penalty fine.

Fair enough?  No dog owner should complain about laws to enforce cleaning up after their dog and most would also accept that a Café in a general public area is not necessarily an appropriate place for dogs to be off lead. Perhaps walking a maximum of four dogs at a time is also fair, to ensure the walker remains in control of the dogs. The issue for dog walkers seems to be that, while 220 acres sounds like a big enough area for dogs to run off lead, the designated area is apparently less manicured, more gloomy and secluded and therefore a safety concern for women walkers.

The Government’s own wildlife advisers, Natural England and The Kennel Club will always support action against irresponsible dog walkers, but the current off-lead ban proposals are deemed unjustified by both organisations.  The Kennel Club has branded the DCO’s ‘heavy-handed’.

The Dog Control Orders at Burnham Beeches is proposed to be introduced from this month.  To find out more go to www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/burnhambeeches.

Remember that regardless of whether your dog is on or off lead, they will need to be wearing suitable identification, or you risk a fine of up to £2,000.  Pet-TagsUK partners with The Kennel Club, providing engraved pet tags that are compliant with The Control of Dogs Order.  See the fantastic range of designs at Pet-TagsUK and Kennel Club Tags.  Prices are from £8.00 and include full engraving and fast delivery.

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You’ll also find great coats and cable knit sweaters to keep your dog warm as the weather gets cooler while out and about.

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