Posted 2 months ago ago
Dogs are banned from many beaches in the summer months (Photo: Caroline Abbott)
by Caroline Abbott
It’s claimed that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, but there’s another: twice a year, a bitter argument about whether or not dogs should be allowed on beaches will erupt on our local Spotted pages on Facebook.
In Torbay – the South Devon region which is made up of the coastal towns Torquay, Paignton and Brixham – dogs are banned from most of the best beaches between May 1 and September 30.
The region, which is also known as the “English Riviera”, is heavily reliant on tourism. It’s asserted that dogs would spoil the beaches for holidaymakers, either by owners failing to pick up their mess – which is unsightly, smelly and a health hazard – or by their behaviour including gatecrashing picnics, knocking down sandcastles and scaring small children.
It’s a similar story in neighbouring Teignbridge, where popular beaches include Dawlish Warren and Shaldon, but the dog ban which covers large sections of the beaches is even longer, running from April 1 to September 30. Fines are issued to anyone caught flouting the rules.
Critics point out that dog-free humans are just as capable of leaving litter behind and causing a nuisance to others.
It’s frustrating for local dog owners who have to stop some of their favourite walks just as the weather finally improves after a wet, cold, dark winter. It’s especially frustrating when some beaches are empty outside of the school holidays, or at certain times of day.
Yes, there are beaches that are dog-friendly all year round, but these tend to be small coves that take longer to walk to than walk along – not good for dogs who need a lot of off-lead exercise. Or they’re at the bottom of a flight of steps that are long, or uneven, or both, making access difficult to impossible for people with mobility issues.
A former colleague of mine insists that, just as there are beaches that are dog-friendly all year round, there should be at least one beach that remains dog-free all year round, for the people who don’t like dogs. How would the council decide which beach could be used by which group? And where would you draw the line – for example, would you also have a beach that’s adults-only, for the people who don’t like children?
The number of Brits planning to take a staycation this summer has rocketed thanks to the various issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But many households also got a new dog during lockdown. What will all these dog owners do when they visit Torbay, or wherever? Put their dog in kennels? Take their dog with them, but miss out on spending time on the nicest beaches the area has to offer? It’s not likely they’ll be allowed to leave their dogs unsupervised in their accommodation. Will they put their dogs in danger by leaving them in a hot car? None of these options are good.
What are the alternatives? There could be a rule stating that dogs are allowed on beaches as long as they are kept on a lead. But although this could get around some of the problems, extendable leads mean dogs could still potentially disrupt other beach users.
When I last visited Cornwall, I was pleased to see their approach: in many cases, dogs are allowed on beaches in the mornings and evenings, which allows time for locals to walk their dogs before or after work and visitors to enjoy the beach without dogs during the day. It sounds like a great compromise.
This has its critics too, generally because of the minority of owners who don’t pick up after their pets. In some cases, the tide would wash away anything left on the beach, but in others, it would just sit there until someone got rid of it. Perhaps a community group could volunteer to be in charge of enforcement, with fines issued to offenders? Or maybe people should just take a bit of personal responsibility, check their immediate surroundings for anything potentially harmful or unpleasant before laying out their beach towels, and not let their kids wander off.
The dog bans in Torbay, Teignbridge and elsewhere don’t just affect dog owners, but also local businesses, as dog owners may choose to visit places and spend their money where their dogs are welcome.
I think it’s time Torbay and Teignbridge reconsidered their 24/7 summer ban. In the meantime, I’m off to look into booking a mini-break in Cornwall.
- What are the rules where you live? Do you think people are happy with them? What do you think the rules should be? I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org