We are the Brighton and Hove group of the national Ramblers. Walking and socialising in and around the South East of England.

The national ramblers web site is very positive about dogs on ramblers walks. In the group walks section it says

" Bring your dog

We know that many people enjoy walking with their four-legged friends, so we encourage all our walking groups to allow dogs on walks. Registered Assistance Dogs are allowed on any walk."

It is disappointing to see that Brighton and Hove Ramblers is further discouraging dogs and their humans from walking with the group by increasing the work on walk leaders. This is by asking the leader to choose to allow dogs on walks and then to communicate with each dog owner (see newsletter). Already many B&H walks are not dog friendly and we haven't been able to attend many walks over the last year. This is despite them being on routes and to pubs which are suitable for dogs. 

So I'd ask the committee and members to reconsider the approach to dogs and follow national ramblers policy to allow dogs on walks. This should be the default rather than it currently is the exception. There are very few areas which are not suitable for dogs (walks with routes near livestock can be included by having dogs on a lead through sheep fields etc). A quarter of households in the UK own a dog - that's a lot of potential members to exclude

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Comment by Nick Malyon on March 7, 2018 at 15:18

Thanks Clare. The issue you have raised makes much more sense to me than thoughts of risks/insurance etc. But isn't the issue here more about that particular dog/human rather than all dogs? I'm aware of walk leaders having issues with slow ramblers holding the group up, illness, phobias (eg. cows), harassment, littering, gates being left open etc etc. 

With a slow walker it's more about having a chat, suggesting another walk type etc rather than banning all who may be slower (eg. over a certain age, because this would blatantly be wrong and many older walkers may be quick - however most of the ones who hold the group up are older). I just feel that banning dogs is similar: it's a sledgehammer to crack a nut - it removes a quarter of all households. 

I find a lot of people on the walk enjoy having a dog there - many talk about dogs that they have had in their lives. There are other groups on meetup and elsewhere that welcome dogs. In light of this competition, if the ramblers are to continue and grow, and not to lose another part of the group, isn't the answer to be more inclusive?

Comment by Clare Hall on March 4, 2018 at 20:12

Hi Nick,

I’ve had a couple of experiences where I’ve said yes to allowing dogs on the walks and the owners have been unable to control their dogs properly. This led to us waiting for the owner and being late for pub lunches, getting back to cars on time etc. This is why me (and other walks leaders with similar experiences) don’t want to take the responsibility of having dogs on their walks. It can be difficult enough herding a group of ramblers, without the addition of dogs as well. 

Comment by Nick Malyon on February 13, 2018 at 12:19

Hi Peter

Yes, I've thought of that. The only problem is that I'd only be able to go on walks that I lead as most others won't let us on!

We were unable to go on most ramblers walks last year and so walked with meet up groups. These are dog friendly but also very popular so are oversubscribed. 

The walk that you are leading on Saturday is through some very dog friendly areas. It might help this debate to understand why you chose to exclude dogs from areas so popular with dog walkers?

Comment by Peter Hodd on February 13, 2018 at 11:17
Hi Nick. Perhaps if you want more dog friendly walks, you could led some more on the next programme?
Comment by Nick Malyon on February 12, 2018 at 13:30

Thanks Stuart,

Yes, it is all a balance but currently I feel that the balance is far too much against dogs (and the 25% of households who own one). Of 8 walks currently listed by B&H, only one allows dogs. That is far from the rambler's aim to "encourage all our groups to allow dogs on walks". 

I'm not sure what the extra responsibilities for a walk leader are when dogs are allowed on a walk (speaking as a former committee member and walk leader). The person bringing the dog has legal responsibilities already and if there was an incident that would sit with the dog owner. But yes, it is right that the walk leader should decide and there are circumstances, for example though a nature reserve, where dogs would not be suitable. However on footpaths, bridleways, open access and roads dogs, under control, are allowed.

The ramblers have fought for this access and a dog is legally seen as part of this right of access. Yes, landowners and farmers need to be taken into account. But if there is a legal right of access for a person then there is for a dog and to see Ramblers not defending this is very concerning

Hopefully there will be some discussion and a realistic view of the risks. Maybe then the percentage of walks allowing dogs will increase 

Comment by Stuart Ellis on February 12, 2018 at 12:38

Hi Nick,

Thanks for your comments on this issue. The Ramblers policy (see the FAQ section 'What is the Ramblers Policy concerning dogs on walks?') is the following:

We encourage all our groups to allow dogs on walks, as we recognise that many people enjoy walking with their four-legged friends. Some walks won't be suitable for dogs (for example when the route crosses numerous stiles, difficult terrain or areas where livestock – particularly lambs and calves – are present). The ultimate decision on whether to permit dogs lies with the individual group or walk leader. If you do take a dog, please keep it under close control, especially on farmland, and on a short lead near livestock. 

Please note that including the wording ‘no dogs’ on walks programmes breaches the Equality Act (2010), which covers indirect disability discrimination. This occurs when a policy or practice disadvantages people with a disability. A rule stating ‘no dogs’ would particularly disadvantage users of assistance dogs. As such, an organisation is required to make reasonable adjustment to such rules to ensure that no disadvantage occurs. We therefore advise that if Groups, Areas or Walk Leaders do not wish members to bring dogs on their walks, they must state 'Registered Assistance Dogs Only'.

As a group we have to balance the needs of walkers who like dogs against those who don't and, of course, farmers and landowners whose land we walk across. This is why the decision is left to the walk leader who is the best placed person to take it as they have chosen the route and know the risks involved such as cattle, terrain etc. And yes, dogs are a risk factor which leaders need to take into consideration along with the terrain, crossing main roads, conditions underfoot etc.

Between allowing dogs on all walks and banning dogs from all walks we believe that our current policy of leaving the decision to the walk leader strikes the right balance and is in line with Ramblers policy. At the end of the day if members want more walks with dogs then they are welcome to step forward and lead such walks but also take the responsibilities that this entails.

Stuart Ellis

BAHR Chair

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