Dogs on Swanage Beach – survey findings published

Results of a public consultation into dogs in Dorset’s public spaces has found that while the majority think dogs shouldn’t be allowed on Swanage’s Main Beach in the summer, they should be allowed off the lead when on the beach in winter.

The survey conducted over 15 weeks from January to May 2020 by Dorset Council asked people what they felt about restrictions for dogs on specific beaches across Dorset. There were also findings for the beaches in Studland.

Picking up dog poo

Other questions that applied across Dorset included ones on picking up dog poo, the maximum length of a dog lead, whether dog owners could be told to put their dog on a lead, and where dogs should be on leads, like pavements, graveyards, formal gardens, car parks, sports pitches and allotments.

There was also a general question about whether all restrictions should have the same start and end dates across Dorset. Currently in Weymouth, dogs are not allowed on the beach from 1st April to 31st October but in Swanage, the dates are 1st May to 30th September. 74 percent agreed that the dates should be harmonised, with the majority preferring 1st May to 30th September.

Creating a dog-related Public Spaces Protection Order

Dorset Council’s main aim of the consultation was to gather views, before creating a dog-related Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) across the Dorset Council area. It’s hoped the findings will form the basis for providing clarity and consistency across Dorset for dog owners and non-owners alike, about dog controls on public open spaces.

Councillors will make the final decision on the controls to be included in the new order.

Swanage beach dog restriction sign

64 percent of responses came from dog owners

Overall 64 percent (5,403) of responses came from dog owners and 36 percent (3,036) from non-dog owners. Of the residents responding, 60 percent owned a dog and 40 percent didn’t. However, 86 percent of the visitors responding were dog owners.

Swanage Town Council and Durlston Country Park also submitted their views.

Consultation results about Swanage and dogs

Question: The existing order prohibits dogs from Central Beach during specified summer months. Would you like to see this change?

No – 60 percent
Yes – 39 percent
Don’t know – 1 percent

“The overall responses show a clear majority in favour of continuing to exclude dogs from the specified area on Swanage’s Central or Main Beach.”

Question: Would you like to see dogs to be kept on a lead during the remainder of the year (when permitted) in this area of the beach?

Yes – 39 per cent
No – 59 percent
Don’t know – 2 percent

“Outside the prohibited period, dogs would normally be allowed free rein on the beach. This particular question was trying to establish if respondents felt that dogs should be kept on lead when allowed on the beach. Here the message was quite clear overall with people feeling dogs did not need to be kept on a lead by 59% against leads compared to 39% in favour of them. As in most other responses to questions of this type the dog owners felt strongly one way and the non-dog owners the other way.”

Question: Should there be a ‘dogs on lead’ restriction on the main roads leading to the beach?

Restriction to be applied – 75 percent
No restriction – 25 percent

“In this location the overall responses show a majority in favour of having a “dogs on lead” restriction in this area by a significant margin, with 75% supporting the suggestion. 64% of dog owners themselves felt a restriction was acceptable whilst 92% of non-dog owners felt there should be one. Visitors who responded (generally dog owners) were also in support of a restriction with 65% in favour.”

Dog on beach

“Excellent response rate for this consultation”

Councillor Jill Haynes, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for customer and community services said:

“We have had an excellent response rate for this consultation. And it gave us a wealth of information to base the new PSPO. Thank you to everyone who took part.

“The full report and recommendations will be discussed at Place and Resources Overview Committee on 21st September 2020 and then to Cabinet on 6th October 2020.”

Swanage ‘dogs on the beach’ survey comments

“As a resident of Swanage, I’ve seen first hand the amount of dog excrement and plastic bags full of it that selfish dog owners leave. Not all of these people are visitors. I would welcome a total ban of dogs on our beach. Unfortunately I fear this would result in more dog excrement on our pavements!!!! It really needs policing to address this highly divisive topic….”

“If the decision is to restrict dog access to beaches during summer months, please consider the USA model of allowing access before 9am and after 5pm. As a non-dog owning resident whose home looks out over Swanage beach, I see most dog owners being very responsible with clearing up after their dogs, and enjoy watching the dogs bouncing around on the beach. Out of season access should NOT be changed. You need to keep as many locals in the town as possible to maintain your tax base. The Swanage demographic is above average in terms of dog owners – do not drive them away. Should Swanage attract the reputation of being dog unfriendly, it will suffer for it.”

“I have not seen an irresponsible dog owner on Swanage beach in the winter and I walk there most days. I enjoy seeing people with their dogs having fun on the beach, It brightens up my day. It’s easier to pass the time of day or a smile with people with dogs as the dog has no social awkwardness. I find a smile from a dog owner or a stroke with a friendly dog brightens my day . Im often alone on my walks and although not unhappy myself so I’m sure lonely, or people who live alone benefit from this social interaction”

“I think the central beach area of Swanage that excludes dogs should be extended to the edge of the North slipway by the Waterfront café/restaurant – this would help prevent fouling of the water that flows down the beach to the sea where children often play.”

“I would like to ban dogs from Swanage beach all year as I am a swimmer and walker who uses this beach all year and am totally fed up with the dog farces and plastic bags left by dog owners.”

“In regards to Swanage beach I feel that there should be restricted timings during the summer months so that dog walkers can still use the beach early in the morning and in the evening when it is not being used by beach goers.”

“I have visited Swanage over many years and enjoy that dog owners can enjoy the beach with their dogs outside of the main summer months. I believe that they should be able to continue to do so.”

“Please be mindful of the boost during the winter the beach dog walkers bring to the local economy- in Swanage they go for many hot drinks after the dogs have enjoyed their time on the beach. General health of owners and dogs is improved by beach time off the lead in winter. Social interaction for lonely people, not to be underestimated”

“PSPOs are not currently applied to North beach Swanage. I believe the rules stipulated for central Swanage beaches should be extended to North beach.”

“We think that all dogs should be excluded from the Southwest coast path between the Swanage Museum and the Old Stone Quay for the six weeks of the summer school holidays. During this period hundreds of children (and adults) sit every day by the sea wall crabbing. This is an age old Swanage tradition. The children are usually barefoot and scantily clothed. On a daily basis some owners allow their dogs to foul without clearing up
the mess.”

“As a responsible dog owner & lifelong visitor to Swanage, I visit every year during the September half term, not just because we love Swanage, but because it is the most welcoming seaside destination to dogs and owners. It would be a huge shame if dogs were not permitted off lead out of peak season. I fully support the need for restrictions during the summer months.”

“As a responsible dog owner and now a resident, I would like things to stay as they are now – main beach in Swanage is very crowded in summer – but dogs can enjoy walks on beach for rest of year.”
“As a visitor, I feel that the lack of dog friendly beach area in Swanage is too restrictive, if I was a dog owning local council tax payer I would feel quite irritated. There seems to be no area where dogs are allowed on or off lead, even after 7pm. This puts many off visiting Swanage”

“Cornwall is dog friendly with various restrictions and it works. Having them at different times will attract different types of visitor/ families during different periods. We visit swanage out of summer restrictions because our dog can run on the beach and swim. Spending hundreds of pounds on accommodation and restaurants each time we come.”

“The beach is a great space to exercise your dog(s) and socialize with other dogs- they need to be able to run freely. Some dogs are hunters by breed and can’t walk freely in the countryside as they may follow a scent. The beach provides no distractions for dogs like that and can exercise without a worry for the owner. The beach is a great place for many dog owners to enjoy a lovely walk so it is equally important to dog owners to be able to exercise well as the dog. Taking that away many dog owners would struggle especially the elderly dog owners living in Swanage”

“Dogs should be kept on a lead on central beach during the busy periods but to ban them during this period is not necessary. As a responsible dog owner and a resident of Swanage I should not be penalised for wanting to stroll along the beach with my dogs (on a lead) during the summer.”

“I absolutely beg that dogs should be allowed on the beach at Swanage all year round. It is the dog owners responsibility to keep their animal under control and to clean up after it. During the summer months the beach can be deserted in ‘bad’ weather and also, in many an evening when holiday goers have finished for the evening and gone out for food, drink and evening entertainment. The beach could then be utilised by dogs and their owners. My family have been holidaying in Swanage for almost 90 years, myself 30.”

“I am a (responsible) dog owner & love to take my dog on the beach all year but due to unscrupulous dog owners I reluctantly accept the summer ban on Swanage (my local) beach, it would be good though if they were allowed on the beach in the evening during the summer months. I constantly put posts on the Swanage Facebook page highlighting the need to clean up after your dog”

“I live in Swanage and the beaches are used a majority of the time only by dog walkers, it is ridiculous to exclude dogs from the beaches during the non holidays months September to May as dog walkers also like to enjoy the beach and also keep the beaches clear of rubbish.”

Swanage ‘dogs on leads’ survey comments

“As a responsible dog owner and lifelong visitor to Swanage, I visit every year during the October half term, not just because we love Swanage, but because it is the most welcoming seaside destination to dogs and owners.”

“In some areas shown on the maps e.g. Swanage I feel the restricted areas are too wide. I believe dogs should be on lead on all roads and in all car parks but not necessarily to extend to the sea front. Unfortunately not all dog owners are responsible.”

“Dog fouling has become a real problem in Swanage. It needs closer monitoring and harsher consequences of not cleaning up after your animal”

“I love dogs, but the level of dog poo on Swanage streets has increased, it’s disgusting, especially if you are walking at night”

“Where there is a public footpath or a public right of way or means of access to a beach a dog should at the very minimum be on a lead. My wife and I have on several occasions been knocked and unsettled by dogs that have been released by their owners at the top of Sheps Hollow in Swanage to excitedly race down the footway to the beach.”

To view the full report, go to the Dorset Council website

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