Action needed in relation to dog control in the outdoors

23 March 2023

Assault of Wicklow landowner by walker with dogs shows need to develop a culture of responsible dog ownership

Action needed in relation to dog control in the outdoors

The circumstances surrounding the closure of the Zig-Zags agreed access route in the Glenmalure valley, Co Wicklow have prompted upset amongst hillwalkers and the wider community, and huge support for Pat Dunne and his family. Last Sunday morning, Pat was physically assaulted by a walker who insisted on bringing his dogs onto Pat’s land, having passed several signs saying that dogs were not allowed there.

Alan Lauder, Chair of Mountaineering Ireland’s Access and Conservation Committee commented “I am sickened and disheartened that Pat has suffered this assault. He has worked closely with those in the access and recreation community to enable responsible access over his land and by doing so, has helped thousands of people to enjoy the Wicklow Mountains.” Alan added, “The individual responsible has forced Pat to close this access route and in turn, has affected us all in the hillwalking community. We will support Pat and the Dunne family in recovering from this incident, and we add reassurance that the issues of responsible access, and of dogs in the uplands, will feature at the top of our agenda for action.”

Unfortunately, this situation illustrates how the poor behaviour of one individual can result in a loss of access that affects the wider recreation community. The presence of dogs, on land where signage makes clear that dogs are not permitted, was a key factor, as was the man’s failure to respect the request not to go up the hill with his dogs.

Mountaineering Ireland has today engaged with the Department of Rural & Community Development, requesting that the department expedite actions in the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy related to control of dogs in the outdoors, including fostering a culture of responsible dog ownership.

This is a particularly sensitive time of year on the hills as ewes are heavily pregnant or may have young lambs. In this case, there were cows with young calves on the hill. Freshly calved cows can be aggressive when dogs are present, a situation that has tragically resulted in the death of dog walkers in the UK. Birds and other wildlife are also breeding and vulnerable to disturbance at this time of year. Mountaineering Ireland requests that people not take dogs into upland areas without the landowner’s permission to do so.

Statement announcing closure of the Zig-Zags walking route

Link to National Outdoor Recreation Strategy

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