Kerry’s blue flag beaches to be off-limits to dogwalkers and horse riding

Some areas at 14 seaside locations in the county will be off-limits to dogs and horses between 11am and 7pm from June 1 to September 15
Kerry’s blue flag beaches to be off-limits to dogwalkers and horse riding

Saorise Brennan from Tralee and his dog Sweetpea take a walk on a West Kerry Beach as the Sun shines down on the Country. Photo: Domnick Walsh 

Man's best friend is to have access to Kerry's blue flag beaches severely curtailed this summer with new bylaws banning dogs and horses between the hours of 11am and 7pm. 

However, dog walkers have been thrown a bone, with the creation of dedicated sand corridors to allow pooches to access non-blue flag areas as long as they stay on a tight leash.

Controversy first erupted back in March, when the proposed bylaws to restrict access were interpreted as a total ban on walking dogs and horses. 

At a meeting of Kerry County Council yesterday, director of services John Breen said blue flag beaches make up only 2% of the Kerry coastline. 

He said the new laws, which were backed by the majority of councillors, mean Kerry’s 14 blue flag beaches will be off-limits to dogs and horses between 11am and 7pm from June 1 to September 15, to comply with international regulations. 

The county’s blue flag beaches are defined sections of larger beach areas, Mr Breen told councillors. 

In Rossbeigh, for example, the blue flag area where dogs and horses will be banned accounts for around 20% of the total beach, he said. 

Through-way corridors

Dogs will be able to access the non-protected parts of the beach through newly created corridors, Mr Breen said.

However, the corridor proposal saw some councillors cry foul. 

Cllr John Flynn (FF) questioned their practicality, suggesting they could be washed away when the tide is in.

Similarly, Cllr Michael O’Shea asked: “If the dog fouls 15 yards out from the blue flag area and the tide comes in and it carries it into the blue flag area, how can you enforce that?” 

Cllr Jackie Healy-Rae believed the corridor proposal would not stand up to scrutiny by An Taisce inspectors. 

“The whole beach on either side could be full of dog foul,” he said. 

He quipped that An Taisce, which manages the blue flag awards, will want to ban people from beaches next.

Pathogen hazards

However, An Taisce's Ian Diamond previously explained the reasoning behind the restrictions.

“The rationale for restricting access of domesticated animals to beaches is that amongst the most common hazards in bathing waters are microbial pathogens introduced by fecal contamination from humans and animals."

The criteria in relation to dog restrictions are in place in the 50 countries globally that operate the programme, he said.

The meeting was also told that horses would have to be facilitated in non-blue flag areas also as they were important for tourism in west and in south Kerry.

“Pony trekking and horse trekking is a big attraction in South Kerry,” Cllr Johnny Healy Rae said.

Other provisions in the new bylaws, the first since 2013, make it an offence to fail to comply with a lifeguard’s directions and a ban on the use of certain inflatable water devices. 

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