Can you walk your dog during lockdown? What you need to know as more coronavirus measures announced

During his public address last night Boris Johnson announced that he was placing the UK under lockdown, following pressure from his cabinet. What does it mean for people who need to walk their dogs?

Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 11:01 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 11:02 am

Dogs need regular exercise, and during the coronavirus pandemic large numbers of people have been seen out walking their dogs in Portsmouth and Hampshire.

Before the lockdown people who had not exhibited any symptoms of coronavirus, and do not live with anybody who has done, were allowed to take their dogs out for a walk as long as they stay a safe distance (2m) away from other people.

Those with symptoms, or who lived live with people who had symptoms, were not allowed to leave the house to walk dogs.

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Dog walkers and their pets getting fresh air in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire

In many communities, groups were offering to walk the dogs of those in self-isolation having exhibited symptoms of the disease.

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This was possible because, until March 23, people without symptoms for COVID-19 had not been told that they must stay inside at all times.

Although the Government advised that people stay at home and take part in social distancing to help limit the spread of coronavirus, many chose to ignore this advice.

Over the weekend thousands of people were seen in parks and beauty spots around the country, often close to one another.

MPs from the Portsmouth area and QA Hospital chief executive Mark Cubbon condemned behaviour of people who were ignoring social-distancing rules and health secretary Mike Hancock said that ‘nothing is off the table’ when it comes to measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

This prompted the government to bring in more severe measures, meaning people will be much less free to leave their houses, even if they do not have any symptoms.

The lockdown in the UK, akin to those already in place in France and Italy, means that everybody needs to stay indoors at all times, except for a few limited reasons where venturing outside is permitted.

Only people who have no symptoms, and do not live with anybody with symptoms, are allowed outside at all.

What does this mean for dog walking and exercise?

Johnson explained that the permissible reasons for leaving the house are to go to work if working from home is impossible, for a medical need including helping a needy relative, to shop for essentials such as food and medicine, and to exercise once per day.

He said that this exercise could be a ‘run, or a walk, or a cycle’. Under current government guidelines, it is during this one permitted period of exercise per day that people will be allowed to take their dogs.

It could also include taking children to a park.

The Prime Minister said that those who disobey these rules could face fines.

What rules are in place in other countries?

In France, where a similar lockdown has been in place for a week, hundreds of thousands of police officers have been deployed onto the streets to enforce rules.

Those who are out on the streets must be able to justify themselves using a ‘sworn statement’, which they must present on request to show their ‘essential’ reason for being out of the house.