Dog owners have been urged to check what local restrictions are in place before letting pets off their leads in Dublin’s parks and on beaches this summer.
hey may be regarded as man’s best friend, but dogs running loose can strike fear in the hearts of many, particularly children, as well as posing a threat to wildlife.
Last week, the DSPCA reported that a swan had its wing ripped off by an off-leash dog along the banks of the Royal Canal in Phibsboro and later died.
Following the shocking incident, the animal welfare charity called on owners to keep their dogs on a lead when out walking.
A caller recently told RTÉ’s Liveline how she was bitten and her Labrador received serious injuries when they were set upon by two wolf-like dogs in Clondalkin on Easter Sunday.
Last month, the mother of a boy who was attacked by a mixed-breed Staffordshire bull terrier in 2020 said she found it “upsetting and frustrating” that dogs are still being let off leads near their west Dublin home.
Darryl Brady-Graham, who was 12 at the time, suffered severe facial injuries and received 150 stitches after the horrific incident in Clonsilla.
With the pandemic puppy boom seeing a sharp rise in dog ownership, there have been calls for increased awareness of the bye-laws in place across Dublin’s parks and beaches.
The DSPCA was at Bull Island nature reserve this week to promote responsible dog ownership as part of a programme under way in local schools.
Gillian Bird, the charity’s head of education and media, said restrictions differ, so owners should always check what regulations are in place locally.
“Even if a local authority has a rule for its dog walking areas, you still have to pay very close attention to signage because things can change seasonally,” she said.
“Signs and laws are not there to interfere with dog owners, they are there to help them be responsible and protect other park users and animals.
“People automatically assume that a park is there for them and their dog. However, the reality is that 50pc of park users don’t have dogs, or may not like dogs.”
Ms Bird told Independent.ie that several factors need to be considered before allowing a dog off-lead.
“The most important thing of all is that they have good recall,” she said. “If you can’t call them back to heel instantly, you should not be letting them off their lead.”
She said a dog’s understanding of the ‘leave’ command is also crucial.
“This covers everything from your dog not peeing on somebody’s picnic basket to making sure they don’t eat something that’s dangerous for them. It’s not just a courtesy to others, it’s also for your pet’s own safety.”
Ms Bird said while a dog’s socialisation skills with other canines can be helpful, it will count for nothing without good recall.
She also warned owners to check what bye-laws are in place before bringing a dog on holiday in Ireland.
“The accommodation may be pet-friendly, but you might find when you arrive that dogs are banned from the local beach,” she said.
The Dogs Trust charity said it encourages owners to be mindful of local regulations when out walking, especially for off-lead exercise.
“There may be times when it’s appropriate for a dog to remain on-lead, such as another person approaching with their dog,” a spokesperson said.
“We also always recommend keeping dogs on a lead at all times when near traffic or livestock.”
While bye-laws and facilities for dogs can vary in each local authority area, there is no ambiguity when it comes to the 11 restricted breeds (and strains/crossbreeds), which include Staffordshire bull terriers, bull mastiffs, Doberman pinchers, German shepherds, rottweilers and Japanese akitas.
Dogs in this category must be muzzled in public and kept on a short, strong lead by someone over the age of 16 who is capable of controlling them.
The rules for these breeds also apply to designated dog areas in public parks.
Dublin’s local authorities have worked to strike a balance between keeping dog owners happy and the public safe, with an increasing number of off-lead zones in parks. Here are the rules for each local authority area in Dublin.
Bye-laws introduced saw an effective ban on dogs being allowed off-leash in regional parks, apart from dedicated areas. Smaller parks have specific off-lead times – up to 11am and an hour before closing – which many dog owners argue are too restrictive.
An online petition by Fingal Dog Owners’ Group to reverse the bye-laws received more than 8,000 signatures.
Fingal County Council has off-lead areas in Ardgillan (Skerries/Balbriggan), Malahide, St Catherine’s Park (Lucan), Newbridge (Donabate), Santry Demesne, Porterstown, Millennium Park (Blanchardstown), Tyrrelstown and Ward River Valley (Swords).
In terms of beaches, there are stricter rules in place during the official bathing season, with dogs only allowed off-leash before 11am and after 6pm. Dogs are prohibited in designated bathing areas on Fingal’s Blue Flag beaches.
Dogs must be on a lead at all times in parks, apart from designated areas in Marlay Park, Shanganagh Park and Cabinteely Park. This does not apply to Killiney Hill Park, which is fully off-leash.
There are also strict rules in place for some of south Dublin’s most popular bathing spots. For instance, dogs are banned from the designated bathing/lifeguard control area at Seapoint and Sandycove all year round.
At Killiney, dogs are not allowed in lifeguard patrolled areas between 10am and 7pm during the summer bathing season.
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council allows dogs to be off-leash in non-designated bathing areas at all times.
Dublin City Council
DCC operate seasonally adjusted set times when dogs are allowed off-lead on beaches and in parks – generally before 11am and for one hour in the evening. The one exception is North Bull Island, which is part of the Dublin Bay Biosphere.
This year, the local authority proposed major changes to St Anne’s Park’s rules. Dogs are not permitted off-leash at any time in core sections of the park, including the children’s playground area and famous rose garden.
However, they can be let free in a designated area outside the on-lead zone, with no time restrictions.
South Dublin County Council
Dogs must be kept on a lead in its parks and be under effective control in any public place. Off-lead areas are provided at Griffeen Park in Lucan, Tymon Park, Tallaght, Waterstown Park, Palmerstown, and Corkagh Park, Clondalkin.