March marks start of dogs on lead season and owners reminded to pick up after their pooches!

Responsible dog owners across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are reminded about some important rules which come into effect at this time of year to help protect the area’s outstanding natural environment. 

From 1 March 1 to 31 July, dogs on lead season begins and dog owners must take steps to limit any disturbance to protected wildlife in heathland areas and nature reserves across the BCP area.

Rules state that residents and visitors using their open access rights must keep their dogs on short leads of no more than two metres from March to August each year and all year around livestock. These areas include Canford Heath, Hengistbury Head, Turbary Common Corfe Hills Heathland, Ham Common, Talbot Heath and Bourne Valley.

While all dog owners should be aware of their legal responsibilities to always pick up after their dogs, BCP Council is also taking additional steps to mitigate the impact of dog waste on local nature reserves.

As part of their new campaign to tackle dog waste, rangers have recently been utilising biodegradable red chalk spray to highlight areas where dog poo that has been left out to fester and sully sites. This visual demonstrates problem areas to other dog owners and aims to encourages people to be responsible.

Councillor Mark Anderson, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Place, BCP Council said:

“This is an incredibly special time of the year for our heathlands and open spaces. Species from as far away as Africa migrate to our heaths to breed and nests are under construction. Rare reptiles also emerge, to bask in the sun and hunt, with invertebrate life utilising the bounty of unique flora as it begins to bloom. By keeping your dog on its lead, you can help protect our precious wildlife at this critical time.

“We also know that dog waste can have a really negative impact on the environment and this has always been an issue in need of our attention. As well as being unpleasant to see, it is dangerous to other animals and children due to harmful bacteria and parasites. As visitors are not actively searching for dog waste on their walks, it is easy to miss quite how much gets left on our reserves. It is your responsibility to clean up after your dogs and against the law to not do so.’’

Seasonal rules around keeping dogs on lead are in line with government guidance for management of open access land such as heathlands. Alternative sites, parks and greenspaces are available across the area where dogs can be off lead at all times.

To meet its Climate and Ecological emergency goals, BCP Council is working closely with Dorset Dogs and the Urban Heaths Partnership (UHP) and other conservation partners on an initiative called Operation Heathland. This will aim to highlight the importance of heathlands and people’s responsibilities as we get closer to peak seasons and sensitive times for wildlife.

Find out more about heathlands here: bcpcouncil.gov.uk/heathlands