Follow The Field's advice on whether landowners can request that walkers on public footpaths put their dogs on leads

If a walker is using a public footpath on your land, can you as the landowner request they put their dogs on leads? Follow The Field’s guidance on your rights and the law.

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Can a landowner ask dog walkers to put their dogs on leads? I had a problem with a chap with two loose dogs that took down two hares, killing them. I saw him pass the sign that read: ‘Dogs must be on a lead, please’ but he took his dogs off the lead.  I remonstrated and was subjected to abuse; he said he was on a footpath. This is a County Wildlife Site – and the nesting season.  I lost a dog a few years ago after it was attacked by another dog on my own land. This worries me a lot. Any advice would be gratefully received.
SF, Bedfordshire

The Countryside Alliance kindly offered the following advice. Use of a public right of way does not mean that a person walking a dog has a right to be on adjacent land, nor does their dog. Dogs must be under control at all times in public places and must not be ‘dangerously out of control’ in either a public or private place. While dogs do not have to be on a lead on a public right of way, they must be under control. If the owner cannot ensure this then the dog should be kept on a lead, and a landowner can request that such a dog is put on a lead. This clearly applies where the dog is not sticking to a footpath and trespassing on neighbouring land. If the land around a footpath is public access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, then the land may be accessed. But to protect farm animals and ground-nesting birds, this is conditional on walkers’ dogs being kept on a fixed length lead, no more than two metres long, between 1 March to 31 July, and at any time in the vicinity of livestock. Regardless of the time of year the requirement for dogs to be under control remains. A farmer is allowed to kill a dog if it is worrying livestock. The dogs in question were clearly not under control and allowing the dogs to pursue hares is a likely poaching offence under the Game Acts. There are also local laws that may require dogs to be on leads, such as Open Spaces Protection Orders, normally issued by local authorities.  Dog walkers must either have their dogs under control at all times or keep them on leads.