Councils are being urged to consider relaxing any locally-imposed restrictions on dog walking during the coronavirus shutdown period.
The RSPCA made the call in a bid to prevent people from travelling further afield to walk their dogs – and so risk spreading the virus – and instead to encourage them to walk nearer to home.
Many local authorities have previously introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) to stop dogs being walked in certain areas, often including local sports pitches. However, concerns have been raised that PSPOs can limit suitable dog walking spots within some communities.
The RSPCA fears that without a relaxation of the orders, some dog walkers may feel they have to travel to exercise their dog and protect its welfare – something councils could help avoid with a temporary lifting of restrictions.
The RSPCA has also urged walkers to keep dogs on leads at this time to help ensure social distancing and avoid owners having to come into close contact with one another should they need to retrieve their dog; or in the event of an incident that could cause a potential veterinary visit.
Dr Samantha Gaines, dog welfare expert and head of the RSPCA’s companion animals department, said: “Since the introduction of these new measures to help combat covid-19, we’ve received many queries from dog walkers. The RSPCA is reminding the public that – while each person in a household can walk their dog once a day – it is imperative they stay two metres away from others, and avoid contact with other people’s pets when doing so.
“We know that many local authorities have previously introduced PSPOs that stop dogs being walked in certain areas, including some sports pitches and fields. This has previously heightened concerns about the availability of dog walking spots near to some people’s homes.
“The RSPCA is concerned that if some dog owners do not have adequate space to exercise their dogs near their homes they may make unnecessary journeys.
“It won’t be possible, appropriate or safe to relax PSPOs in all areas. However, where it is possible and safe to do so, we’re urging local authorities to be flexible and consider relaxing enforcement of PSPOs on dog walking.”