National Park urges dog owners to keep dogs on leads this Spring

Northumberland National Park Authority is encouraging pet-owning visitors to ‘Take the Lead’ and keep dogs on leads and under control in the National Park this Springtime. 

From now, the National Park starts to welcome more visitors, but the 405-mile area also transforms into a rich habitat supporting pregnant and young animals alike.  

The ‘Take the Lead’ campaign, encourages dog owners to be responsible and considerate when visiting the National Park to balance the needs of visitors, wildlife, and livestock. 

Northumberland National Park Authority asks owners to: 

  • Keep dogs on leads to protect wildlife and farm animals 
  • Pick up dog waste and dispose of it in any public bin, or take it home 

Uncontrolled pets can have devastating effects in the landscape, from chasing livestock that can separate mothers from their young or lead to pregnant livestock miscarrying, to dog attacks resulting in injury or death. Furthermore, improperly disposed of dog waste can cause illness in animals and humans and pollution in the environment. 

Ema Caskie, Farming and Rural Enterprise Officer at Northumberland National Park Authority emphasised the negative impact uncontrolled dogs can have on a working environment: 

She says: “Much of the National Park is a living, working landscape, requiring everyone to assist in keeping the countryside safe for all. Spring is lambing season and pregnant ewes are particularly vulnerable to miscarrying their young if distressed by dogs chasing them or worse livestock being injured or killed by dog attacks.  

“Additionally, Springtime is when various seasonal ground-nesting bird species such as curlew, oystercatchers, and lapwing return to the National Park to rear their young, leaving them vulnerable if dogs are off leads. 

“By promoting responsible behaviour through the ‘Take the Lead’ campaign, we can ensure visitors with pets can enjoy the Park and the diverse wildlife and livestock that inhabit Northumberland National Park are not disturbed or harmed.” 

The only time to consider not keeping a dog on a lead is if visitors felt threatened by livestock. As advised in the Countryside Code, if in danger, releasing the dog makes it easier for both owner and dog to reach safety.

The campaign also highlights the responsibility of dog owners in managing the safe disposal of waste. Dog waste can harbour worms and diseases that may infect people, livestock, and wildlife, and even pollute local water sources. Encouraging visitors to bag up dog waste and dispose of it properly helps safeguard the unique landscape of Northumberland National Park. 

Gary Pickles, who is the Ranger who maintains the Hadrian’s Wall Path says responsible dog ownership demonstrates respect for the cultural significance of ancient sites such as Hadrian’s Wall. 

He says: “We view the countryside as a place of leisure but it’s also a place of work for me and other national park workers, farmers, and small businesses. It is therefore important that we properly bag up dog waste and bin it in any public bin. If no bin is available, then the litter should be taken home so that it can be disposed of appropriately. That way it won’t cause a health risk or potentially damage to the countryside or look unsightly in our historic landscapes.” 

To promote the campaign, signage will be placed along many popular walking routes and will be accompanied by social media posts urging dog owners to #TakeTheLead and keep their pets on leads and follow designated paths, ensuring the safety and tranquillity of livestock and wildlife. 

Farmers, landowners, and businesses within the National Park can join the campaign by requesting ‘Take the Lead’ signage to display on their land, serving as a visual reminder to visitors to be responsible for their pets. For sign requests, contact enquiries@nnpa.org.uk. 

Northumberland National Park Authority expresses its gratitude to visitors with pets who visit responsibly.