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Kennel Club and Forestry Commission take the lead on woodland walkies

Following the signing of the Forestry Commission/KC agreement at this year’s Crufts, an agreeable line-up of Forrestry Commissioners and their German Wirehaired Pointers, all of whom took part in the Gamekeepers Competition that evening in the main ring. l-r: Norman Haly and 'Saker', Forestry Commissioner Dr Victoria Edwards and her Westie 'Dylan', Elizabeth Davis and 'Nell', KC Secretary Caroline Kisko, Matthew Eason and 'Simba'

The Kennel Club and the Forestry Commission took the lead on the third day at Crufts to launch a new agreement that will ensure dog owners enjoy walking in forests and woodlands with their pets and also understand the needs of the forests and other users.

Thousands of dog owners exercise their pets in our woodlands every day, and the new agreement encourages them to do so while making them aware of their duties as responsible dog owners.

The launch of the agreement, signed by Lord Clark of Windermere, Chairman of the Forestry Commission, and Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the Kennel Club, concludes 18 months of work by the two organisations to draw up some useful advice that would encourage harmony between dog owners, land managers and other forest users.

Dr. Victoria Edwards, Forestry Commissioner for England, attended the launch and said: "Dogs and trees - they go together like bees and honey!

"Woods are great places for people and their best friends to exercise together and we are delighted to be working with Britain's foremost canine organisation to promote the idea of responsible woodland walkies. Working with the Kennel Club will help us to continue to promote active and healthy lifestyles and encourage responsible dog ownership among the thousands of people who visit Forestry Commission managed woods every year."

Dr Edwards added: "Forty-five percent of woodland walkers take their dogs with them. We welcome their dogs as much as them; we are encouraging dog walkers to enjoy the woodland and to be safe and responsible, particularly in birds’ breeding seasons. For instance, it’s a simple as making sure that your dog doesn’t disturb ground nesting birds, because if a bird is driven off its nest, then that year’s clutch will not hatch.

"The Forestry Commission is currently looking into providing extra facilities for dogs and their owners, such as water bowls for dogs to drink out of, biodegradable dog waste bags, designated places for dog waste disposal and so on."

Dr Edwards added that there are 275 working dogs registered with the Forestry Commission, working alongside rangers and assisting them in their duties

Among the aims of the agreement are to:

- encourage better understanding of the needs of dog owners and all forest users,

- ensure dog owners feel welcome in the forest and play a part in conserving its value for everybody,

- work with others to develop new ways to improve how dogs and their owners use the forest,
- make dog owners aware of opportunities and places that are particularly well-suited to their needs,

- only seek restrictions on dogs (such as them being kept on leads or prohibited) in specific circumstances, such as around children’s play areas and at particularly sensitive times or places for wildlife,

- accommodate dog-related sports in the forest, while balancing the needs of all other interests,

- encourage dog owners to be sensitive to other forest users, who may not be familiar with dogs and the benefits they can bring,

- help people understand and experience how dogs enhance people’s lives, through improved health, confidence and mobility.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, added: "We are delighted to be involved with this initiative and we have been actively involved in the decision-making process on behalf of dog owners who wish to enjoy the countryside responsibly.

"The partnership has also enabled us to build good relationships for the future with an important countryside manager that can help us convey our message of responsible dog ownership."