DOGS HAVE been banned from almost all the grouse moors in the North of England and Wales by Landowners, despite the fact that a right of open access recently came into force.
More than 90 per cent of the 171 grouse moor owners in England and Wales are understood to have availed themselves of a clause in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 that enables them to ban dogs from their land for five years.
It is still possible to take dogs on footpaths, provided that they are on leads, but they will be banned from access land, even two feet off the footpath, where these restrictions are indicated on signs and on the Internet.
The upper North-West, North-East and Wales, as the areas are known, includes the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and Moors, and the Snowdonia national parks, and are the latest areas of mountain, moor, heath, down and common land where the right to roam comes into force by law.
Many landowners are annoyed that the public is being invited on to their land at the most economically important time for grouse moors, which depend on their "crop" of red grouse, and for ground-nesting birds such as golden plover, lapwing and curlew.
May and June are critical to the success of breeding grouse and research has shown that disturbance by dogs, even dogs on leads, can be fatal for the tiny offspring.
When the grouse eggs hatch, the baby grouse can be dispersed and die of hypothermia. The danger is greatest when they begin to fly at two weeks, before they learn a sense of direction and the discipline of formation flying.
Some landowners have chosen to close their land altogether to walkers as they are allowed to for 28 days a year - excluding bank holidays. Landowners who close their land now may apply for further closures later on this year when the shooting season begins.
OUR DOGS’ German Wirehaired Pointer breed note writer Claire Sharp owns a grouse moor, and commented on the restrictions and how she, as a dog lover herself, sees them as necessary.
"I am a dog lover - I own 8 dogs - and like most dog owners am frustrated by not having the freedom to walk my dogs where I please," says Claire. "However, I am in complete agreement with the landowners who have used the clause in the Act to stop people letting their dogs run on the moors. What has been said is accurate - dogs disturbing breeding grouse is often fatal for the offspring.
"People wouldn't dream of allowing their dogs to run riot in a hatchery so why should it be any different just because the birds and eggs are in their natural environment?"
Claire concludes: "I also fail to understand why members of the public would WANT to walk through an area which is specifically designated for shooting! Do these same people loiter around the targets at their local gun club too?"
Meanwhile, George Winn-Darley, the owner of 7,000 acres of moorland at Spaunton, near Kirkbymoorside on the North York Moors, has gone a step further than law requires him to, establishing a ‘dog exercise area’ where owners can let their dogs off the lead while the rest of the moor is closed.