Should you keep your dog on a leash or off-leash? What are the rules in Dublin’s parks and beaches?
Dog owners have been urged to check local restrictions in place before allowing pets off-leash in Dublin’s parks and beaches this summer.
They may be considered man’s best friend, but dogs on the loose can strike fear into the hearts of many people, especially children, and pose a threat to wildlife.
Last week, the DSPCA reported that a swan had its wing ripped off by an off-leash dog along the banks of the Royal Canal in Phibsboro and later died.
Following the shocking incident, the animal welfare charity called on owners to keep their dogs on a leash when out walking.
A caller recently told RTÉ’s Liveline how she was bitten and her Labrador was seriously injured when they were attacked by two wolf-like dogs in Clondalkin on Easter Sunday.
Last month, the mother of a boy who was attacked by a mixed-breed Staffordshire bull terrier in 2020 said she found it ‘upsetting and frustrating’ that dogs were still being left off-leash near their home at the west of Dublin.
Darryl Brady-Graham, who was 12 at the time, suffered serious facial injuries and received 150 stitches after the horrific Clonsilla incident.
With the pandemic puppy boom leading to a surge in dog ownership, calls have been made for increased awareness of the regulations in place at Dublin’s parks and beaches.
The DSPCA was at Bull Island Nature Reserve this week to promote responsible dog ownership as part of an ongoing program at local schools.
Gillian Bird, the charity’s education and media manager, said the restrictions differ, so owners should always check what regulations are in place locally.
“Even if a local authority has a rule for their dog walking areas, you still need to be very careful with signage as things can change seasonally,” she said.
“The signs and laws are not there to interfere with dog owners, they are there to help them be responsible and protect other park users and the animals.
“People automatically assume that a park is there for them and their dog. However, the reality is that 50% of park users don’t have dogs or don’t like dogs.”
Ms Bird told Independent.ie there are several factors to consider before allowing an off-leash dog.
“The most important thing of all is that they have good recall,” she said. “If you can’t call them back instantly, you shouldn’t let them lose their lead.”
She said a dog’s understanding of the “leave” command is also crucial.
“It covers everything from your dog not peeing on someone’s picnic basket to making sure they don’t eat something that’s dangerous for them. This is not only a courtesy to others, it is also for your pet’s own safety.
Ms Bird said while a dog’s socialization skills with other dogs can be helpful, it won’t count for anything without a good recall.
She also warned owners to check current regulations before taking a dog on holiday to Ireland.
“The accommodation is pet-friendly, but you may find on arrival that dogs are not allowed on the local beach,” she said.
The Dogs Trust charity said it encouraged owners to follow local regulations on their walks, particularly for off-leash exercise.
“There may be times when it is appropriate for a dog to be on a leash, such as another person approaching with their dog,” a spokesperson said.
“We also recommend always keeping dogs on a leash at all times near traffic or livestock.”
While dog regulations and facilities may vary in each local authority area, there is no ambiguity when it comes to the 11 restricted breeds (and strains/crosses), which include Staffordshire bull terriers , Bull Mastiffs, Doberman Pinchers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Japanese Akitas.
Dogs in this category must be muzzled in public and kept on a short, solid leash by a person over 16 who can control them.
The rules for these breeds also apply to dog-only areas in public parks.
Local authorities in Dublin have been working to strike a balance between dog owner happiness and public safety, with an increasing number of off-leash areas in parks. Here are the rules for each local authority area in Dublin.
The bylaws introduced saw an effective ban on allowing off-leash dogs in regional parks, outside dedicated areas. Smaller parks have specific closing times — until 11 a.m. and one hour before closing — which many dog owners consider too restrictive.
An online petition by the Fingal Dog Owners’ Group to overturn the regulations has received over 8,000 signatures.
Fingal County Council has lead-free areas at Ardgillan (Skerries/Balbriggan), Malahide, St Catherine’s Park (Lucan), Newbridge (Donabate), Santry Demesne, Porterstown, Millennium Park (Blanchardstown), Tyrrelstown and Ward River Valley ( swords).
As for the beaches, stricter rules are in place during the official bathing season, with dogs only allowed off-leash before 11am and after 6pm. Dogs are not permitted in designated swimming areas at Fingal’s Blue Flag beaches.
Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times in the parks, except for the designated areas of Marlay Park, Shanganagh Park and Cabinteely Park. This does not apply to Killiney Hill Park, which is completely off-leash.
Strict rules are also in place for some of South Dublin’s most popular bathing spots. For example, dogs are prohibited year-round in the designated swim/rescue control area at Seapoint and Sandycove.
In Killiney, dogs are not permitted in supervised areas between 10am and 7pm during the summer swimming season.
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council allows dogs to be off-leash in undesignated bathing areas at all times.
Dublin City Council
DCC enforces fixed, seasonally adjusted times when dogs are allowed off-leash on beaches and in parks – usually before 11am and for one hour in the evening. The only exception is North Bull Island, which is part of the Dublin Bay Biosphere.
This year the local authority has proposed major changes to the rules at St Anne’s Park. Dogs are not permitted off-leash at any time in the central sections of the park, including the children’s play area and the famous Rose Garden.
However, they can be let loose in a designated area outside of the leash area, with no time restrictions.
South Dublin County Council
Dogs must be kept on a leash in its parks and be subject to effective control in any public place. Lead-free zones are planned at Griffeen Park in Lucan, Tymon Park, Tallaght, Waterstown Park, Palmerstown and Corkagh Park, Clondalkin.