Somerset-based pet accessory business Oscar & Hooch and Exmoor National Park have joined forces to launch a national campaign to promote responsible dog walking in the countryside.
The campaign, which will run throughout the summer school holidays, will encourage dog-owning families and other dog walkers to go out and enjoy the spectacle of Exmoor and other UK beauty spots while reminding them to keep their dogs under control at all times so that wildlife, livestock and other visitors are not disturbed.
Dog walkers will also be encouraged to clean up any dog mess and dispose of it properly to keep the park and other destinations clean and tidy for other walkers to enjoy and to prevent any harm or disease to other animals and wildlife.
According to Kennel Club statistics, since 2010, dog ownership has risen by 10% and is now at 8.5 million dogs, with 26% of homes having a dog. Over half of all outdoor visits involve a dog.
All the UK National Parks have a policy of encouraging responsible dog walkers and Exmoor, like the others, has a set of guidelines for dog owners to follow. Keeping a dog under close control, particularly around livestock and areas of ground nesting birds is a key issue, as is regular worming and clearing up dog mess responsibly.
Dan Barnett, access and recreation manager, Exmoor National Park Authority, said:
“There are around 620 miles (1000 kilometres) of public rights of way (eg. footpaths and bridleways) on Exmoor for you and your dog to enjoy. On public rights of way there is no legal requirement to keep your dog on a lead but, unless you are very confident about your dog’s obedience, we strongly recommend that you do as they must be under close control.
“There are all sorts of scents and smells that may prove too tempting to resist and result in your dog disappearing into the distance. You will inevitably meet livestock, other people, dogs, cyclists and horse riders at some point and there is potential for confrontation if your dog is out of control.”
Elaine Steckler, co-founder of Oscar & Hooch, manufacturers of British handmade dog accessories, added:
“Making sure that your dog has a well-fitted collar and strong lead is important to ensure your dog does not escape its lead and run away from you.
“It is also important to take a plentiful supply of poo bags with you on your walks and to make sure that these are disposed of properly in bins or taken home with you for appropriate disposal.”
The national awareness campaign consists of an online quiz, via which entrants can win an Oscar & Hooch collar and lead each week. The manufacturer will also be donating 10% of sales through its website over the six-week period when customers use the code EXMOOR at checkout, contributing towards the upkeep and preservation of Exmoor National Park.