Reader question: A local farmer has given us permission to exercise our dog in his fields. However, the local hunt has told us not to walk our dog there and we can be arrested if we do, as they have paid for the rights to hunt on the land. Is this true?
When it comes to your rights to walk your dog in the countryside, there are a few national rules to bear in mind, and specific local rules may also apply.
First, you may not allow your dog to “roam” in fields and woods or in marshland, river or lakeside areas, as it may disturb wild game.
However, this has a wide interpretation, meaning the animal is out of calling distance and not under your supervision, or otherwise more than 100m away. In woods and forests, you should also not walk a dog without a lead (especially if you leave the main forest tracks) in the period from April 15 to June 30. If your dog chases after wildlife, you could be fined.
Generally speaking, the fact that a local hunt has paid for the right to hunt on some land does not mean it is illegal for you to walk your pet there, says dog behaviour and training specialist Laudine Roussy.
She said dog walking is only forbidden in fenced-off private hunting grounds – which does not seem to be the case here – or, in rare cases, where the prefecture has decreed a ban in certain other designated hunting areas.
“It sounds unlikely, if the farmer gave you permission, but the best way to know for certain is to ask your prefecture,” said Ms Roussy. “I’ve come across hunters saying you have no right to walk in this area because they have paid the landowner for the right to hunt, but that does not automatically give them an exclusive right.”
You could also check the claim with the fédération des chasseurs for your department, she said, as such rights must be declared to this body. It is also responsible for the local hunts, and could remind them of the rules if they are exceeding them.
She added that it is a good idea to wear a fluorescent jacket to make sure you are visible – orange is better than yellow. They can also be found for dogs.