Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Patches of blue, reflections and a spanking new gate—Highcliff Gate this morning

In her dotage, my dog exhibits a distinct lack of enthusiasm for upland walks. This now renders the crudely painted “DOGS ON LEADS” sign on the wooden rail of no matter to me. A threat for sure, yet not a command. A “PLEASE”, though, would have aided in conveying the message in a less intimidating manner.

The matter of dogs being on leads on public footpaths is potentially a bit of a sticky wicket.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no legal obligation for dogs to be on leads, except between 1 March and 31 July on Open Access land, even if there is no livestock present1England, Natural. 2021. ‘The Countryside Code: Advice for Countryside Visitors’, GOV.UK (GOV.UK) <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code/the-countryside-code-advice-for-countryside-visitors#:~:text=an%20unattended%20fire.-,Always%20keep%20dogs%20under%20control%20and%20in%20sight,-The%20countryside%2C%20parks> [accessed 6 January 2024]. The same Countryside Code explicitly states that you should release your dog from the lead if you feel threatened by livestock. Otherwise, it advises you to “Always keep your dog under effective control and in sight.”

The term “control” is highly subjective. But, once again, to my understanding, this does not necessarily imply being on a lead per se. “Close control” is used in the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953:2‘Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953’. 2021. Legislation.gov.uk <https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/1-2/28/section/1#:~:text=(c)-,being%20at%20large%20(that%20is%20to%20say%20not%20on%20a%20lead%20or%20otherwise%20under%20close%20control)%20in%20a%20field%20or%20enclosure%20in%20which%20there%20are%20sheep%5D,-%5BF2(2A> [accessed 6 January 2024]

(2) For the purposes of this Act, worrying livestock means …

(c) being at large (that is to say not on a lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep.

However, the legal exception I mentioned earlier is only valid for Open Access land. Once you pass through the gleaming new gate, you find yourself on a Public Footpath that crosses the Open Access land.

Public Footpaths are for walking, though the purpose of such a walk can be somewhat ambiguous. There was a fellow, a racing pundit, who once found himself in a bit of trouble for utilising a footpath to spy on a racehorse. He strolled along the public footpath overlooking the racing gallops, halted, brought out his binoculars, observed the horses in training, snapped photographs, timed the laps, and jotted down notes. Unacceptable, the court declared3 Hickman v Massey [1900]. However, that transpired over a century ago. A more recent incident involving a protest on a highway received a more forgiving judgment4The Supreme Court. 2021. ‘Director of Public Prosecutions (Respondent) v Ziegler and Others (Appellants) – Press Summary’, Supremecourt.uk <https://www.supremecourt.uk/press-summary/uksc-2019-0106.html> [accessed 6 January 2024]. As for whether walking a dog falls within footpath rights? Nothing has yet been brought before the courts. But the Right of Way itself pertains to humans, not to their canine companions. Dogs may well accompany, but they do not possess their own right.

Dogs shouldn’t be simply allowed to roam freely, not roaming through fields or over heather. Even if other dogs entice yours to deviate to engage in a bit of impromptu sniffing, it should stick to the Public Footpath. Easier said than done.

Thus, if Fido conducts itself appropriately and adheres to the path like a well-disciplined soldier, splendid! No issues there. However, if he leans towards a more liberated spirit, you’ll need to devise a strategy to keep him in check. A lead appears to be the logical choice.

The predicament lies because dog owners often harbour an inflated opinion of their furry companions’ behaviour and their influence over it. A rather perplexing situation.



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2 responses to “Patches of blue, reflections and a spanking new gate—Highcliff Gate this morning”

  1. Alison Jane Elson avatar
    Alison Jane Elson

    Your observations relating to ‘some’ dog owners and their fury friends made me smile and made me reflect! My late husband was a military police dog trainer and whilst we loved dogs, we liked well mannered ones! I’m regularly appalled at unruly dogs and owners who think its ok to let their furry friend run riot. Living in a rural hamlet for 40+years, the cottage next door has become a ‘ short term let’. Experience tells me, the renters are usually townies who bring a dog. The current residents have a young, overweight, exuberant, loud Labrador. Three days ago, I found both letters and a parcel had been delivered to me by mistake. So I took the items next door. I knocked on their front door and offered an explanation and the items. The neighbours dog dashed forward, leapt up, with paws on my shoulders, knocking me sideways, then dashed about the garden and launched itself at me twice, each time hitting me full pelt, its paws hitting my chest each time. The owner out of control and making excuses, for the ‘playful mutt’ whilst I clung to the door way, hoping not to hit the deck! In desperation I informed them – I’m finding this difficult as I suffer from osteoporosis and my bones can fracture on impact. The owner looked horrified, grabbed the post, the dog and slammed the door. Needless to say no one has apologised or checked to see if I’m ok. I might say – I’m beginning to feel like colleterial damage!

    1. Fhithich avatar

      My symapthies. I have had a couple of instances in the last month which, although too minor to relate, could have been entirely different if I had been a five-year-old.

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