Exmoor National Park and leading Somerset-based pet accessory company Oscar & Hooch have joined forces to launch a national campaign to promote responsible dog walking in the countryside.
The campaign, which will run for the duration of the summer school holidays, will encourage dog-owning families and other dog walkers to go out and enjoy the spectacle of the Exmoor National Park and other UK beauty spots whilst at the same time 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 statistics provided by The Kennel Club, since 2010, dog ownership is up 10% and is now at 8.5 million dogs. 26% of homes have a dog and astonishingly over half of all outdoor visits include a dog.
There are many benefits to welcoming dogs in the countryside such as encouraging healthy lifestyles and supporting local visitor economies. Owning a dog not only provides owners with the opportunity to go out and enjoy the great outdoors but also has many health benefits. Owning a dog is good for mental health, providing interaction with other dog walkers and companionship.
However, there are also some concerning issues associated with irresponsible dog ownership. According to NFU Mutual, the cost of livestock worrying has risen 67% over the past two years in the UK. The rural insurer said not all livestock farmers insure against sheep worrying, but it estimates the annual cost to the industry is now £1.6m, while the average cost of a claim has risen by more than 50% to £1,300.
All the UK National Parks have a policy of encouraging responsible dog walkers and Exmoor, like the other National Parks, 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 for Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Generally, your dog should be under close control at all times and there are specific areas and times of the year that they need to be kept on a lead. There are around 620 miles (1,000km) of public Rights of Way (e.g. footpaths and bridleways) on Exmoor for you and your dog to enjoy. On public RoW 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.
“There are over 18,000 hectares of open access land for you to explore where the public have a right of access on foot with a dog, however your dog must be kept on a lead of less than two metres during the bird-nesting season (1 March to 31 July) and at all times near livestock.”
The six-week national awareness campaign will consist of an online quiz which entrants can enter to win an Oscar & Hooch collar and lead each week. This will be integrated with a social networking campaign on both the Exmoor National Park and Oscar & Hooch social media platforms together with a press campaign across all national and regional media. Oscar & Hooch will also be donating 10% of sales through their website over the six week period when customers use the code EXMOOR at checkout, contributing towards the upkeep and preservation of Exmoor National Park.