Dogs in public spaces

Restrictions on dogs in public spaces

For most dogs, exercising and exploring off the lead is a natural and enjoyable activity. For many owners, it can feel rewarding to give their pets that opportunity on their daily walks.

In some public spaces such as parks, though, dogs don’t have the opportunity to exercise off the lead. They may even be banned from the park altogether. That may be because the local authority has introduced restrictions on dogs. These restrictions are introduced through legal tools known as orders.

While some orders may benefit communities, others are too restrictive. They disadvantage dogs, their owners and the neighbourhood.

We believe that all dogs should have fair access to public spaces and plenty of opportunity to exercise on and off lead. We also believe that most dog owners are responsible, and that most dogs are well behaved.

If your local authority is consulting on introducing an order to restrict dogs in public places, our toolkits will help you. There are versions for England and Wales; and for Northern Ireland. They include useful materials so that you can spread awareness and ensure your views are heard.

If you live in Scotland, there’s no equivalent to the PSPOs or DCOs found in the rest of the UK. Instead, dog walkers are expected to follow the requirements of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

On this page:

What are Public Space Protection Orders and Dog Control Orders?

Local authorities can introduce restrictions on dogs in public spaces. These are Public Space Protection Orders (England and Wales) and Dog Control Orders (Northern Ireland).

PSPOs and DCOs are powers which allow for a local authority to introduce bans and restrictions on dog owners. Authorities usually introduce them to help tackle irresponsible dog ownership in public. This might be dog fouling or out-of-control and nuisance dogs.

The measures they may take include, but are not limited to:

  • excluding dogs from designated areas such as parks
  • requiring dogs to be kept on leads
  • limiting the number of dogs that can be walked by one person.

If someone breaches an order and is prosecuted, they could be fined up to £1,000.

Some of these orders could benefit your community. We support orders which are well-thought-out, well implemented and target people who are behaving irresponsibly.

How do these restrictions affect me?

Many local authorities are introducing blanket orders, which restrict dogs from enjoying public spaces or require them to be kept on a lead. Such bans are ineffective and are often ignored by those causing the problem. Responsible owners and the wider community are then left with the burden that the restrictions bring. The negative consequences may include, but are not limited to:

  • poorer health and welfare for dogs, if they aren't getting enough off-lead exercise
  • behavioural problems for dogs if they aren't interacting enough with other dogs
  • poorer social wellbeing for dog owners if they're meeting fewer other owners
  • responsible dog owners being given a bad name
  • a negative impact on local dog-friendly businesses.

What can I do to help?

We want to ensure that dog owners are well represented when a local authority consults on a planned PSPO or DCO.

While it’s considered good practice to advertise on upcoming PSPO/DCO consultations, this doesn’t always happen. This means that, sometimes, orders are passed without dog owners being fairly represented.

This is why we have created a toolkit which will guide you through the consultation process, helping you to influence the outcome. We have included:

  • a template response to help you contact your local authority
  • posters and flyers to help you to raise awareness in your community
  • a graphic that you can use on your social channels to spread the word among your dog-owning friends.

With your support, we can create and keep happy, dog-friendly environments for us all to enjoy.

Adult German Shepherd dog standing in a park  

Keeping dogs healthy and happy

Ensuring dogs have access to outdoor areas to exercise is one way that we can support their wellbeing. There are lots of other things you can do to keep your faithful friend healthy and happy, and our classes and online resources will help you.

Our help and advice pages will tell you more about how to understand your dog's behaviour.

You can also discover more about responsible dog ownership; how to enrich their environment and different ways to care for your pooch.

Learning basic skills is vital for your dog's wellbeing – our advice on training will help you teach your dog to sit, stay, settle and much more. If you'd like to teach your dog skills in a class environment, then check out our Dog School programme.

Get in touch

Do you have questions or comments about dogs in public spaces? Please email us at [email protected]

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