London, 24 March 2020 – Yesterday the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced the long-awaited lockdown to contain the COVID-19 emergency and, listening to his address to the nation (transcript of the speech available here), all UK dog owners will have had the same question: can I walk my dog in lockdown? How many times per day? What if I am self-isolating, will my neighbour/close one/volunteer be able to come and walk my dog? This post is for you and will be continuously updated.
Can I walk my dog during lockdown in the UK? How many times per day?
0n 23 March 2020, the PM indicated that everyone must stay home , and only four exemptions allow people to leave their homes:
- “Shopping for basic necessities (as infrequent as possible).
- One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household.
- Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
- Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.”
No specific mention of dog walking was made. So you may ask yourself whether this means that walking your dog during lockdown falls under the second exception (exercising), and so you will only be able to walk your dog once a day, which would be definitely unfeasible unless you have a garden where your dog can relieve themselves.
We dug out the official Government full guidance on staying at home, hoping to find something more (last checked 24 March 2020). Unfortunately, at the time we speak, this doesn’t provide any further specification.
On 26 March 2020 The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 were made. Regulation 6 details the restrictions on movement. Again, no further details were provided on dog walking.
On 27 March 2020 the Government released the Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for people with animals (last checked 28 March 2020). The advice states that in case you do not have any symptoms of Coronavirus, “You may leave your house to exercise once a day and you should combine this with walking your dog. In doing so, it is important that you minimise the time spent outside of the home and remain 2 metres away from anyone outside of your household.”
Is it true that in some parks I cannot leave my dog off-leash during the COVID emergency?
In order to ensure social distancing rules, many parks now require dog walkers do not let their dogs off-leash. Among these, the Royal Parks now require all dogs to be kept on a lead. Also some boroughs have adopted a dogs-on-lead policy for the time being, among these (we will add to the list as we come across more):
Can I take my car and drive to a park to exercise my dog?
There seems to be confusion around this: it has been reported by newspapers that the Police position is that the public should not be driving anywhere to walk their dogs or exercise. However, the Guardian reported that they “checked with the Cabinet Office, which is overseeing restrictions on movement, and a spokeswoman confirmed that the guidelines did not prohibit driving somewhere for exercise or dog walking.”
Can I take my dog to the vet?
Government advice released on 27 March states that “All non-essential trips to vets should be avoided. If your pet needs urgent treatment, you may take them, but must remember to wash your hands and remain 2 metres away from anyone outside your household. You must call the vet before going to see them.”
In case you have developed any symptoms, or anyone in your household has, the Government advises that “All non-essential trips to vets should be avoided. If your pet needs urgent treatment, you must phone the vet to arrange the best approach to meet your pets’ needs.”
Can somebody else still help walking my dog if I am self-isolating?
If you develop any symptoms that are compatible with coronavirus infection, you and the other members of your household must observe self-isolation (you can find the official guidance released on 24 March 2020 by the Government here – last checked 24 March evening).
You will need a neighbour, friend/other person not living in your household (as they will have to self-isolate too), or volunteer to help. During lockdown, these people will still be able to leave their home and come and help you, on the ground of the third exemption provided by the new Government guidance announced on 23 March (“[…] to provide care or to help a vulnerable person”).
This has been confirmed by the Government advice of 27 March: “You may also leave your house to provide care or help a vulnerable person. This includes walking a dog for someone who is unable to leave their house because they are self isolating or being shielded. You should remember to wash your hands before and after handling the dog and keep 2 metres away from other people and animals, including when handing over the dog to the owner.”
However, Sky News reported that Michael Gove said that in normal situations “you ideally should not take somebody else’s dog out to ensure social distancing is adhered to.”
How do I find help to walk my dog if I am self-isolating?
There are hundreds of Covid Mutual Aid groups that serve different areas. These are ran by volunteers and one of the things they may be able to help with is walking your dog if you are self-isolating. For a full and up-to-date list of the groups, visit the official Covid Mutual Aid local groups webpage.