As England enters yet another national lockdown, the RSPCA is calling for local authorities to consider easing some locally Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) in order to help dog walker comply with lockdown rules.
A RSPCA statement says, “Many Councils across England and Wales have previously introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), which often include strict rules on where dogs cannot be walked. There have long been fears that this can restrict suitable dog walking spots in some local communities.
“As England enters another national lockdown, and with Wales already under national Tier 4 restrictions, the RSPCA has renewed its calls for Councils to explore a temporary relaxation of PSPOs related to dog walking to help stop unnecessary travel; enabling dog walkers to exercise within their immediate communities and comply with lockdown measures.”
PSPOs targeting dog walkers have previously come under fire for being often exceedingly strict and very difficult to appeal.
Dr Samantha Gaines, head of the RSPCA’s companion animals department, said, “With England and Wales now both in national lockdowns, there are clear restrictions in place concerning exercise, which will impact many dog walkers.
“In England, exercise is again limited to once per day – and should not be done outside the local area; while in Wales, while exercise is unlimited, this must start and begin at someone’s home.
“Many local authorities have previously introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders that stop dogs being walked in certain areas – including some sports pitches, green areas and fields. In some areas, there are concerns this restricts the availability of suitable dog walking spots.”
She added, “With restrictions now back in place on travel for exercise, this can really limit the dog walking options some people have and creates something of a postcode lottery for dogs and their owners – with many PSPOs across England and Wales meaning local marked sports pitches and fields can be out of bounds too for dog walkers.
“If dog owners do not have adequate space to exercise their dogs near their homes, they may make journeys beyond their immediate communities and unwittingly breach Covid-19 rules, aimed to stop the spread of this awful disease. We’re calling on local authorities to be flexible at this time and temporarily relax PSPOs where it is safe and appropriate to do so, to help keep people local and protect dog welfare.”
The RSPCA is also advising the public to keep dogs on leads at this time to help ensure social distancing. Anyone wishing to help a vulnerable person by exercising their pets is advised to closely follow guidance on handover protocols and safety from the Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG) and Animal Welfare Network for Wales (AWNW).