New Forest Dog On The Forest Off The Lead

Dogs on leads in the New Forest

At the June 2023 Verderers Court, a presentment was made by the Chair of the Commoners Defence Association. Andrew Parry-Norton, citing alleged increases in livestock attacks by dog, called for all dogs to be on leads in the New Forest from February to July, and for limited numbers and licencing on professional dog walkers. 

The story is here in The Lymington Times. 

NFDOG opposes moves to keep dogs on leads by regulation. Our motto is clear 'On the Forest; Off the lead'. That is based on dog owners being responsible and having their dogs under control, which the majority clearly do.

Leads are an important part of controlling dogs, when appropriate. Especially in spring. But the freedom for dogs to run and enjoy the forest is important. To restrict and punish the vast majority of responsible owners (including Commoners) for the irresponsible actions of a few isn't fair.

Equally while 'increases in attacks' is being cited, no scientific evidence has been put forward. Clearly attacks to happen and are as concerning to NDOG and its members as to others - but that has always been the case and the science behind 'increased attacks' has not been made public. NFDOG asks for the evidence cited to be made public so any learning points, ways to prevent attacks and other lessons can be identified. 

The Chair of NFDOG, Heather Gould, responded to the paper article, but only part was printed. Her response, on behalf of NFDOG and its members is:

‘Disturbing and worrying attacks on cattle by out of control dogs is clearly irresponsible behaviour by owners. The New Forest Dog Owners Group is as concerned and annoyed as any other decent person or organisation would be. There is a clear minority of dog owners who don’t behave responsibly. We put considerable efforts into trying to correct this poor behaviour with partners across the New Forest. We talk to owners, promote responsible ownership at shows, leaflet and poster visitor sites, and sup[port action against those who misbehave. But to penalise all dog walkers, the majority of whom are responsible, including using a lead where appropriate or they feel they’ve not got firm control of their dog, isn’t right. It would be like banning all cars because a minority speed and kill animals in accidents.

"This is the first time I’ve seen the claim that attacks by dogs are on the increase, but there are no figures or evidence presented for this claim. Many would suspect there are fewer cases now based on the reporting of these dreadful cases which we do see. But evidence and science would be useful, as clearly if this is the case we should look at why, and well as what should be done to tackle it. But the demand for all dogs to be on leads, and I’d assume this should include dogs owned by the Commoners, has been made before. It would simply penalise those responsible owners who’d obey. Those who do not control their dogs now would simply ignore it. What we need is publicity, education and peer pressure to improve their behaviour and help protect wildlife and livestock."