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Kerry County Council: No dogs on our beaches, thanks very much

The headline has a slight inaccuracy: Dogs will be allowed, just not between 11am and 7pm, every day, on a blue flag beach:

Under these bye laws, animals will be limited from accessing the Blue Flag areas of these beaches from 11am to 7pm from June 1st until September 15th.

Director of Services with Kerry County Council, John Breen told the meeting it wasn’t a proposal to ban dogs and horses from beaches. He said it’s a daily restriction and dogs will be able to access other areas of these beaches, that don’t fall under the Blue Flag zone, via a throughway at most beaches; markers will be provided to guide dog owners to these areas.

Opinions will be divided on this one: If you’re the parent of two or three little darlings who want nothing more than to spend a day digging sandcastles, then you’ll probably be pleased that the chances of little Fiachra excavating some dog poo and getting sick as a result have been reduced – as have the chances of him getting bundled over by some over-excited Collie chasing an errant tennis ball.

If, on the other hand, you’re a childless middle class dog owner like me who likes to spend a few weeks in Kerry every summer enjoying its beaches, well, this is infuriating news. We’ll probably be going somewhere else this summer.

Make no mistake: Bad dog owners are, indeed, a menace. Nobody likes setting down the blanket on a nice, clear patch of beach, only to spot an enormous turd fifteen feet to the left. And dogs do, in my experience, have an unfortunate habit of deciding that they need a poo the very moment they set foot on sand. A responsible owner will pick it up and find a bin. Unfortunately, we seem to be in the minority.

But what’s with the collective punishment?

The beaches, incidentally, are not just for tourists. There are lots of people who live near those beaches all year around who use them for their daily dog walk. What’s more, the law is a blanket law, which makes no sense: No dogs on a very sunny day when the beaches are packed with children is one thing – but this is Ireland. Most days, even in summer, are not beach days, unless you put on about three layers of clothes and just walk the shore. On those days, the chances of poop in some kid’s sandcastles are remote, to put it mildly.

Chances are, of course, that this will just end up being the classic Irish law: broadly ignored. Kerry County Council is not going to be sending dog wardens out to Banna Strand on a wet July day to take rogue spaniels into custody. And very few Spaniel owners are going to be letting their little monster loose on a beach on a day when temperatures are in the mid-twenties and the place is full of screaming toddlers. Why aren’t they ever on leads, by the way?

Anyway, it strikes me as a silly law, designed to appease busybodies. And given the popularity of beaches for dog owners, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being a net negative for Kerry’s tourism, rather than a positive.


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