Dorset Dogs was invited to take part in discussions at a breakfast meeting at the House of Commons this month. Dorset Dogs was highlighted as a ‘best practice’ example of championing positive access management for people with dogs whilst promoting responsible ownership.
Chaired by Stephen Jenkinson, Kennel Club access & countryside advisor and consultant to the Forestry Commission, Natural England and Defra, the meeting included MPs and representatives from specially selected local authorities and organisations involved in successful provision and management of public areas as well as people representing user groups who enjoy their local parks and countryside.
Steve Jenkinson chairs the meeting at the House of Commons
Following a speech from Lord Timothy Clement-Jones the Kennel Club gave a presentation on their new report about the impact of access restrictions on dog owners, which includes recommendations for improvements to ensure that access restrictions are reasonable.
The report is available on the Kennel Club’s website.
The Kennel Club emphasised that they are not against reasonable restrictions when they are properly consulted on and applied, as opposed to inappropriate blanket bans that cause undue hardship and distress. Speakers also gave examples of what they considered to be reasonable and unreasonable cases across the country.
Positive management and responsible ownership
In the discussions that followed Suzanne Powner was asked to outline Dorset Dogs’ approach to positive management and responsible ownership. Some of the key points identified as important in relation to access included “Firstly, we need to aspire to great provision for people with dogs including off-lead and safe spaces, secondly, there needs to be good information about any sensitivities at sites, such as wildlife, land management or livestock issues, so that we have the information we need to be responsible owners, and thirdly restrictions should be reasonable and preferably with alternatives nearby”.
Benefits of dogs for people and places
Su highlighted the immense health and well-being benefits that having a dog can bring to people. There’s an increasing amount of evidence to show this means considerable savings to the NHS, as well as the value and potential benefits for our countryside and parks by responsible walkers with dogs when they’re out enjoying these places.
There was a positive outcome for the meeting, as the Home Office representative present said that following the discussions and recommendations the guidance for local authorities on restrictions would be reviewed and revised so that by March next year new guidance will be produced. This should help to avoid poor consultation and inappropriate bans whilst enabling reasonable restrictions to be effective.
Steve Jenkinson shows Debbie Watkins, Countryside Team leader (Rangers) for Hampshire County Council and Su Powner (Dorset Dogs, Urban Heaths Partnership) around the Kennel Club library and gallery to see the historical research and art gallery facilities following the meeting.
Dorset Dogs free guided walkies at Upton Country Park, in partnership with the Park, Poole local authority and The Great Heath Project. An example of some of the 'best practice' work that Dorset Dogs carries out, combining good information with enjoyable access and responsible ownership.
Find more photos of guided walkies on www.facebook.com/dorsetdogs