Walking your Dog Safely on Public Footpaths

Taking your canine companion with you on a country walk is one of the many pleasures of owning a dog.  Allowing your dog some freedom along the way adds to everyones enjoyment. It’s useful to be aware of when it’s time to put on the lead to avoid breaking Local Byelaws and most importantly to prevent your dog worrying livestock in fields.

Clueing yourself up on a few safety tips can not only ensure your walk goes without a hitch but also ensures that everyone enjoys their time out in the great outdoors!

Clear up after your dog

Most dog owners clear up after their dog, it is especially important to always clear up after your dog on a public footpath as bacteria can be spread to livestock which can cause severe illness or death.  Please always clear up after your dog each and every time and dispose of the waste responsibly.  If dog waste bins are provided please use them or if not a litter bin may be used.  If there are no bins, waste must be taken home.

When to put your dog on a lead

This can cause confusion amongst dog walkers.  In public places, the Local Byelaws, otherwise known as Dog Control Orders will specify when and where dogs are not allowed and when to put them on a lead.  This is particularly relevant if you’re planning a beach walk with your dog as most beaches have dog restrictions in place during the summer months. St Margaret’s Bay is in a pretty location located next to a cliff top walk, part of the newly opened England Coastal Path that runs from Camber in East Sussex to Ramsgate.

  • Public Rights of Way

Otherwise known as PRoW there is generally no requirement to put your dog on a lead and dogs are defined as a legal accompaniment on walks. However if you or your dog leave the designated route you are trespassing and the landowner has the right to ask you to return to the designated route.  It is extremely important that dogs are under close control when walking through areas containing livestock.  The 1953 Act to protect lifestock makes it a criminal offence for your dog to ‘worry’ livestock – this means attacking, chasing, injuring or being at large among the animals.

The best advice is to put your dog on a lead when walking through areas containing animals.  Some animals particularly cows with calves can be particularly sensitive to the presence of dogs.  If you feel you are at risk of attack from animals, take your dog off the lead and exit the field with them as quickly as possible.

  • Countryside Access Land

Since 2000 there has been a right to walk across most open spaces that can comprise of downland, heathland, moorland and registered common land.  You will be made aware you are entering Access Land by means of a sign placed at the points of entry.  Access Land Legislation requires that dogs are kept on a lead shorter than 2 metres from the 1st March to 31st July.  This is to protect ground nesting birds.  It is also a requirement to place a dog on a lead when walking in the vicinity of livestock. Folkestone Downs has spectacular views and is linked to two important wildlife reserves.

  • Permissive Access

You may have access to areas of land not normally accessible to other members of the public.  Landowners may grant this access as a gesture of goodwill or as part of a formal stewardship scheme for which they receive money.

  • Country Parks and Nature Reserves

Please check individual dog walking guidance at the country park or nature reserve you are planning on visiting.  For Kent Country Parks, advice on bringing your dog can be found on the individual park pages.  Shorne Woods Country Park is in the pretty Kent Downs AONB – bring your dog and explore one of several way marked trails then have some wood fired pizza from their pizza kitchen afterwards.

  • Coastal and Beach Walks

Most public beaches are open all day every day for dogs during 1st October to 30th April.  In summer some sections of the beaches are more restricted. Check the Byelaws on District Authority websites.  Coastal path walks are open all year to dogs with the exception of some promenades where dogs must be placed on a lead or are not permitted in the summer.

With plenty of dog friendly cafes, pubs and tea rooms, Kent is a great place to bring your dog and go walking in the beautiful countryside.

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