Dog owners 'may be forced to break rules' due to lack of walking spots
Local authorities are being urged to ease rules on where dogs can be walked to stop people breaking lockdown rules.
Many Councils across England and Wales have introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) banning dogs from certain parks, fields and beauty spots.
As England enters another national lockdown and with Wales already under tier four restrictions, the RSPCA has renewed its calls for Councils to explore a temporary relaxation of these measures.
Under the new rules people in England can only exercise once a day and are being advised to stay local and avoid public transport.
Meanwhile in Wales, there is no limit on how often someone may exercise but people must not travel for exercise. This includes dog walking, which must start and begin from home.
The RSPCA says these restrictions can create issues for dog walkers who may have local options curtailed by PSPOs.
There is concern some people will travel to find suitable dog walking spots for their animals – potentially unwittingly breaching Covid-19 rules in the interests of their dog’s welfare and exercise needs.
The animal charity says relaxing PSPOs would stop unnecessary travel, 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: ‘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.’
The RSPCA is also advising the public to keep dogs on leads at all times to help ensure social distancing and avoid owners having to come into close contact with one another.
A study published in November found dog walkers are 78% more likely to catch coronavirus.
Spanish researchers suggested dogs could be catching the virus and spreading it, or transporting it by touching contaminated surfaces and then their owners.
Dr Gaines said: ‘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.’
She added that vulnerable or shielding people can ask friends and family members to walk their dogs under coronavirus guidelines.
Tips on how to do this safely can be found here
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