Dog owners in France launch petition over ban on dogs not on leads

‘It is urgent and vital that our dogs can get back a bit of freedom,’ they say, after town brings in a fine of up to €450 for non-compliance

The rules in the town of Gap are stricter than the national law on dogs off-lead

Dog owners in south-east France have launched a petition against a new decree that states dogs cannot be walked if they are not on leads.

The rule was issued in the town of Gap, in Hautes-Alpes (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur). It states that dogs in public may not be taken off their lead, at any time, anywhere in the town, no matter the dog’s breed, temperament, or training.

The petition is aiming to gather 500 signatures. At the time of writing, it has 231.

It states that previously, the town had a measure of tolerance towards well-behaved dogs off-lead in parks, and forest areas. Now, it says, owners can be fined up to €450 if they do not keep their dog on a lead at all times.

This is a stricter law than the rule that applies nationwide in France, which states that dogs must be kept on-lead (or under 100% control) in forested areas with wildlife, from April 15 to June 30.

Read also: You will soon have to keep dog on lead if walking in forest in France 

‘Too strict’

Dog owners in the town also protested the ban by gathering together on April 7, in a local park with their dogs off-lead. They say that the ban is too strict.

“It’s been a few months, and we’ve seen a really strict application of this decree, which bans dogs from being let off-lead everywhere; there is really no tolerance,” said Cédric, a dog owner present at the gathering, to BFMTV.

Valentine, also at the gathering, said: “We have a friend, who has dogs, who was up on the top of the Canal de Charance, which is usually deserted during the week [with her dogs off-lead], and suddenly there were 10 police up there, bothering her because she didn’t want to put her little dog at her feet on a lead.”

Read also: Do I risk fine if I walk my dog off-lead in France? 
Read also: Five things you may not know... about pets in France

‘Finding a compromise’

Dog owners are calling for the on-lead rule to apply only in certain zones, and to allow dogs to be off-lead in other areas.

They are also calling for the town to create a closed-off dog park where dogs can run freely, and for the ban to not apply in certain open spaces.

The petition also asks for dogs to be allowed off-lead at less busy times, from 06:00 to 10:00 and 18:00 to 21:00.

One owner, Aurélie, said: “We know that there are people who are afraid of dogs, but it’s just about finding a compromise and an agreement with everyone.”

Another owner said that she accepted that off-lead dogs were not appropriate for all areas, such as children’s playgrounds or busy spaces. “But they can’t expect us to keep them on-lead everywhere,” she said.

Cédric has had his German Shepherd for 10 years, but the dog now has incurable cancer. “He’s my baby,” Cédric said. “He doesn’t have much time left. I want him to be able to enjoy himself and walk freely.”

His words echo the petition, which states: “It is urgent and vital that our dogs can get back a bit of freedom.”

The mayor of Gap, Roger Didier, has responded to the news of the petition, saying: “If they give me the petition, I will look at it."