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Open Spaces for Dogs in Peril

Posted: December 8, 2010, 1:45 p.m., EDT


KC Dog, the Kennel Club’s campaign group in place to monitor access to dog walking areas and to help responsible dog owners protect their rights, has warned that UK dog walkers will face increasing restrictions in the countryside if the government sells Forestry Commission land to private buyers as a way of reducing the financial deficit.KC Dog, the Kennel Club’s campaign group in place to monitor access to dog walking areas and to help responsible dog owners protect their rights, has warned that UK dog walkers will face increasing restrictions in the countryside if the government sells Forestry Commission land to private buyers as a way of reducing the financial deficit.

The concerns come in the wake of the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review published last month, in which the Forestry Commission, tasked with managing public woodland, was identified as a target for cuts.

Responsibility for this body falls under the Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), whose own budget was slashed by nearly 30 percent--well above the average cut of 19 percent. Defra now has to review all aspects of its operation to make the necessary savings, including the land holdings of the Forestry Commission.

These areas are widely used by dog-walkers, as they promote off-lead access for dogs wherever possible and are not subject to dog-control orders imposed by local authorities. The Forestry Commission also offers guidance and resources for managing dogs in woodland and outdoor areas.

It is estimated that almost half of the visitors to Forestry Commission sites are accompanied by a dog, meaning any changes to access could have huge implications for dog walkers in the future. The Kennel Club is very concerned that the sale of some of Britain’s best-loved green spaces could result in them falling into the hands of private landowners with no wish to allow public access to people, let alone their dogs.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act, which secures access to private land, is conditional upon dogs being kept on leads in the months of March through July. The implementation of these "on-lead” restrictions by private land managers could therefore significantly limit the areas and the manner in which owners can exercise their dogs.

KC Dog, the Kennel Club’s campaign group in place to monitor access to dog walking areas and to help responsible dog owners protect their rights, has warned that UK dog walkers will face increasing restrictions in the countryside if the government sells Forestry Commission land to private buyers as a way of reducing the financial deficit.The Kennel Club’s KC Dog group reports that increasing numbers of dog walkers are already being forced out into the countryside, as local authorities introduce dog control orders, effectively restricting dog walking in urban areas. There is now further apprehension that a possible sale of woodland areas will push dog walkers further onto farmland and into wildlife hotspots, causing unnecessary conflict with farmers and wildlife rangers.

Furthermore, with more and more dog owners having to drive to rural spaces to walk their dogs, the prospect of unregulated car parking charges on private land is of great concern. The Kennel Club also fears that additional access permissions, such as those for sled dogs, will not be protected. This could lead to higher fees or even termination of access altogether for sport of this type.

The proposals are expected to go to consultation soon. The Kennel Club is currently calling upon all dog walkers to contact their local Members of Parliament and Defra ministers as a matter of urgency, to raise their concerns over this issue.



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