The RSPCA has welcomed new guidance from the UK Government that will make it easier for people in England to walk and exercise their dogs amid ongoing lockdown restrictions.
Advice for pet owners in England was updated on Wednesday (January 12) and now outlines that people with dogs can ‘if necessary’ go out more often than once a day to exercise their canine companion. People are still advised to ‘limit this where possible’ however.
The new advice for dog walkers in England can be found on the UK Government website.
England has been under a national lockdown since January 5 – and people may exercise outside the home only once a day. However, the RSPCA says the decision to relax this so pet owners can meet the exercise needs of their dogs locally is a ‘common sense approach’, which avoids discriminating against dogs in single-person households. Previously, multiple people from the same household could use their daily exercise to walk the same dog but dogs living with one person were restricted to a single walk a day.
In Wales, where national alert level four restrictions have been in force since December 20, there remains no limit on how often someone may exercise. However, people must not travel for exercise, including dog walking, which must start and begin from home.
Dr Samantha Gaines, the RSPCA’s head of companion animals, said: “The RSPCA really welcomes this important new guidance for England from the UK Government, which is a common sense approach for dog owners and their pets.
“Under these rules, dog walkers may now go out more than once a day to meet the exercise needs of their dogs. This stops the rules penalising dogs living with one person and also ensures more consistency with lockdown rules in Wales, where there is no cap on how many times someone may walk their dog. Exercise in Wales must start and stop from the home.
“We all must do our bit to stop coronavirus so it’s important people understand the restrictions and keep local. 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.”
Meanwhile, the RSPCA continues to urge local authorities across England and Wales to ease locally-imposed rules on where dogs can be exercised – known as Public Spaces Protection Orders, which often restrict dogs from being walked in certain places. This will help ensure adequate provision of local dog walking spots during the lockdown, to help keep people in their immediate communities and prevent unnecessary travel.
Owners of dogs have also been reminded that a friend, relative or someone in the local community can help a vulnerable person, or someone who is self-isolating, with their dog walking – but must closely follow guidance on handover protocols and safety from the Canine and Feline Sector Group and Animal Welfare Network for Wales.