Shooting lawyer, Stuart Farr, explains the legal framework surrounding dogs visiting shooting grounds
Q: Is it bad form to take my dog to my local shooting grounds and particularly on competition days? He’s well trained and I want to get him used to the sound of shotgun fire to steady him for the 2018 game shooting season where, of course, he will very much be expected to not so much as flinch when on a peg.
Do grounds publish their dog policies (I’ve not come across it), and are they banned from competition events? (Stan Johnson, Essex)
A: I think nearly every dog owner in the country, at one time or another, has come across this quandary in one form or another. Knowing whether your dog is welcome, when and under what circumstances, can become a headache for any conscientious dog owner who has no desire to offend, cause frustration or create disruption.
The law is unhelpful in this area, it has to be said. The legal framework regarding dogs in the UK tends to focus on anti-social aspects such as dog fouling and the need to control dangerous dogs that are not properly under control. Of course, we also have animal welfare legislation, which applies across the board, but nothing, as far as I am aware, regarding dogs in this particular context.
The ability to take dogs to shooting grounds and events is very much at the discretion of the private landowner or occupier. Most will welcome dogs provided the owner is respectful of others and the activities going on. So, for example, a well-trained dog on a lead, which doesn’t distract other shooters by barking constantly, is highly likely to be welcomed or at least tolerated. Dogs are also welcome at a great many public events, such as game and country fairs, where competitive shooting is a part and parcel of the day.
I have been unable to find any specific dog policies which seek either to deter or regulate the presence of dogs, so my advice is to ask beforehand if you are in doubt. It is as much about observing good dog etiquette than anything else. If your dog is well trained, I am sure you will meet with a positive (if slightly cautionary) response.