Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ninth Report

11  Dog management

86.  The Marine Bill proposes a change, in the case of land designated 'coastal margin', from the CROW Act provisions relating to dog management. The CROW Act requires dogs to be kept on short leads between 1 March and 31 July, and at all other times in the vicinity of livestock. In the context of coastal margin, dogs will simply be required to be "under close control at all times". Natural England glosses this further by saying that "[d]ogs may be restricted to leads where livestock are present. However where there are cattle, signs should encourage dog walkers to let go of any lead if they feel threatened by the cattle".[131]

87.  The requirement for "close control" already applies on public rights of way. Some witnesses, such as the CLA, the NFU and the Kennel Club, called for clarification about what "close control" means.[132] The CLA pointed out both the risks of dogs worrying livestock and the risk of them fouling crops next to the coastal path—it gave an example of a farmer on the Lancashire coast whose contract with a supermarket stipulated that dogs should be excluded from the area where the vegetables were grown.[133]

88.  In its written evidence, the RSPB said it was concerned that the Bill proposed a "significant change in the "default" position regarding national restrictions relating to dogs". It said the term "close control" was "poorly understood and very ambiguous", and pointed out that many areas of spreading room land would be grazed, and were of high wildlife importance, including for breeding ground-nesting birds. The RSPB therefore believed there was a "strong case for maintaining, as the default position, the CROW Act Schedule 2 […] requirements for spreading land, in respect of dogs".[134] Wildlife and Countryside Link said that:

Dogs can cause stock worrying and disturbance to wildlife in coastal environments, notably ground nesting birds and overwintering shoreline birds. Therefore, we believe that a greater level of restrictions on dogs will be needed in many locations on the coast beyond close control.[135]

89.  The Kennel Club and the Pet Advisory Committee both drew attention to the health benefits of dog walking and wanted any restrictions on dogs to be "sensible, balanced and reasonable", and "credible and proportionate". They should be locally determined and adopt the "least restrictive approach".[136]

Our views

90.  The greater access to the coast that will be created by the Bill will also give dog owners increased opportunities for walks with their animals. We agree that the nature of the coastal trail and spreading room suggests that the general rule should be the same as that which already applies on public rights of way, although in the vicinity of livestock and certain wildlife—and some crops—the requirement should be for them to be on short leads as it is under CROW. However the precise meaning of "close control" is not obvious or well defined, so we urge access authorities to do more to clarify the term by providing dog owners with specific examples of what it means in practice.

91.  In its final Scheme, Natural England must demonstrate that when setting the line of the route it will keep dogs off land used for vegetable and salad crops where the farmer's contracts stipulates that dogs must be excluded from the cropped area.

131   Natural England, Coastal access: Natural England's Outline Scheme, April 2008, pp 5, 20. Back

132   Ev 32, para 13.2; Ev 37, para 33. The Kennel Club suggests that guidance should refer to specific behaviours such as "always keeping your dog in sight" or "not letting your dog approach or chase farm animals and wildlife" (Ev 145, para 7.2). Back

133   Ev 32, para 13 Back

134   Ev 64, paras 20-21 Back

135   Ev 201, para 13 Back

136   Ev 143-144, 145, paras 4, 6; Ev 207, Executive summary. Back

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