In order to keep a dog happy and healthy, dog owners need to make sure that their dog gets a lot of exercise. While on-leash walks around the neighborhood are great, letting a dog off-leash allows them the freedom to run around as much as they please. It’s a wonderful treat for well-behaved pets that can you help you make sure they get the exercise that they need. However, even if your dog doesn’t go up to other people or animals, and always comes back when you call, letting dogs off-leash can have some unintended consequences.

Before beaches became popular off-leash spots for walking dogs, ground-nesting birds used them as safe havens for their eggs. However, as more and more people have started walking their dogs off-leash at certain beaches, vulnerable bird populations have been steadily declining. One study found that when dogs and their walkers roamed Spanish beaches without sticking to paths, birds were flushed from their nests 93.8% of the time, while walkers without dogs who followed designated paths flushed the same birds a mere 12.9% of the time. Between 1984 to 2007 there was a 37% population fall in one of the most endangered birds in England, the ringed plover. This drop is “partly attributed to nest disturbance as beaches become busier.”

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Even if the dogs don’t physically harm the eggs themselves, the dogs often scare the birds, forcing them to leave their helpless babies and unhatched eggs unprotected from wildlife and the elements. Without protection, the eggs and babies can overheat or freeze and die.

While educating and directing the public through information campaigns and signs has proven to be helpful, leash laws during nesting season, from March to June, would go a long way in helping declining bird populations. The other eight months of the year, dogs could still enjoy running around without a leash. Sign this petition to demand that conservation officials in Spain, the UK, and any other European countries with wildlife-dense beaches enact leash laws during nesting season!

To continue speaking up, sign these other petitions as well:

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