RSPCA calls on councils to ease dog walking rules 

By Barrie Hudson - 6 January 2021


The RSPCA has renewed calls for local authorities to consider easing some locally-imposed rules on where dogs can be exercised.

It aims to help dog walkers across the country to comply with lockdown rules and stop the spread of covid-19.

Many Councils across England and Wales have previously introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), which often include strict rules on where dogs cannot be walked.

The charity says there have long been fears that this can restrict suitable dog walking spots in some local communities.

As England enters another national lockdown, the RSPCA has renewed its calls for councils to explore a temporary relaxation of PSPOs related to dog walking to help stop unnecessary travel by enabling dog walkers to exercise within their immediate communities and comply with lockdown measures.

Dr Samantha Gaines, head of the RSPCA’s companion animals department, said: "With England and Wales now both in national lockdowns, there are clear restrictions in place concerning exercise, which will impact many dog walkers.

“In England, exercise is again limited to once per day - and should not be done outside the local area; while in Wales, while exercise is unlimited, this must start and begin at someone's home.

“Many local authorities have previously introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders that stop dogs being walked in certain areas - including some sports pitches, green areas and fields.

"In some areas, there are concerns this restricts the availability of suitable dog walking spots.

“With restrictions now back in place on travel for exercise, this can really limit the dog walking options some people have and creates something of a postcode lottery for dogs and their owners - with many PSPOs across England and Wales meaning local marked sports pitches and fields can be out of bounds too for dog walkers.

“If dog owners do not have adequate space to exercise their dogs near their homes, they may make journeys beyond their immediate communities and unwittingly breach covid-19 rules, aimed to stop the spread of this awful disease.

"We’re calling on local authorities to be flexible at this time and temporarily relax PSPOs where it is safe and appropriate to do so, to help keep people local and protect dog welfare.”

In England people may only exercise once a day, though multiple people from the same household can use this daily exercise to walk the same dog.

The charity says these restrictions can create issues for dog walkers who may have local options for exercising their canine companions curtailed by PSPOs.

There is concern this could encourage some people to travel to find suitable dog walking spots for their animals - potentially unwittingly breaching covid-19 rules in the interests of their dogs' welfare and exercise needs.

Dr Gaines added: "It's going to be a difficult period for dog owners, and we'd urge them to research ways to help keep their pets entertained, stimulated and active when inside the home.

“We all must do our bit to stop coronavirus - and keeping dogs on leads at this time can help ensure social distancing, and will avoid owners unnecessarily coming into contact with one another should a pet need to be retrieved."

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