Law and advice for dogs

While many of our four legged friends may not be aware of the law around dogs we as owners should be up to speed about where they are and aren’t allowed and how they should be ‘controlled’. The term ‘close control’ can be very controversial and very hard to enforce as this is very much open to interpretation whilst your ‘close control’ may be within 50m to you whereas my ‘close control’ may be on a short lead.

Public Rights of Way

You are allowed to walk your dog on any public right of way as dogs are regarded as an ‘usual accompaniment’ in law, this entitlement is confined to the line of the path and only exists whilst the dog is accompanied by its owner/ keeper. The law doesn’t require them to be on a lead only under ‘close control’.

Open Access Land

During bird nesting season (1 March – 31 July) and at all times around livestock dogs must be kept on a lead no longer than 2 meters. Other than this they must just be under ‘close control’. On access land used for the rearing and shooting of grouse, there is likely to be a total exclusion on dogs. Visit the Natural England site or ring 0845 100 3298 for current information. Dogs may also be excluded for up to six weeks a year on land used for lambing and in areas important for ground nesting birds. Dog restrictions do not apply to trained guide/hearing dogs and dogs on the land with the landowner’s permission. Your rights to take dogs on public rights of way are unaffected by access land restrictions.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, National Trust, Sites of Special Scientific Interest…

Most of these conservation bodies have their own individual policies for their individual sites. Their outdoor spaces are generally dog friendly but on the condition your dog is kept on a lead, assistance dogs are allowed within their castles, mansions and houses etc. It’s always worth checking where your four legged friends are welcome when planning your day out to check that you will be able to take them with you.

Livestock and what to do:

Cattle may be inquisitive and approach you, especially if you have a dog. Avoid walking through a herd of cattle and NEVER come between a cow or sheep and their young. If you have a dog with you and feel threatened by cattle, let the dog go and retreat. In any other circumstances, dogs should be kept on a short lead near livestock. It is a criminal offence for a dog to worry livestock, that is where a dog barks, chases or bites a farm animal. By law, farmers are permitted to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals so prevention is key to ensure both animals remain safe.

General four paw advice:

Make sure you plan ahead when taking your four legged friends out and about with you. Take a lead and some water with you wherever you go and do some pre-visit checks if visiting somewhere new to make sure your dog is welcome. In the summer time keep in mind that you should be able to hold the back of your hand on the surface of the route for 7 seconds for it to be bearable for your dog, it’s very common for dogs to get burnt pads from surfaces like tarmac in the blistering summer heats.

Enjoy exploring with man’s best friend!

public rights of way

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