It’s that dreaded time of year again

Ruby sticking her tongue out at the ‘no dogs’ sign

It’s the 1st of April, a date met with gloom in our household and it has nothing to do with April Fool’s Day. It means that for the next six months, dogs are banned from some of our favourite local beaches.

Just as the weather is finally improving and being outside is becoming a pleasure, we’re not able to set foot on several beaches in Teignbridge for another half-year without the threat of a £100 fine.

And in a month’s time, some more of our favourite beaches will become no-go areas as Torbay’s ban comes into force until the end of September when it starts getting cold, wet and dark again.

Yes, there are a number of beaches that are dog-friendly all year round. But these are, generally speaking, the small coves which take longer to walk to than to walk along, and those which simply aren’t as nice.

One of the reasons cited for the ban is to keep the areas as clean as possible for the benefit of all the holidaymakers who descend on South Devon in the summer. A minority of dog owners don’t pick up their dog’s poo which is not only unsightly and smelly but also poses a health hazard. Although exactly the same can be said about humans who leave litter behind on the beaches.

Ruby on the beach at Shaldon in Teignbridge

Last year it was estimated that 57 percent of UK residents would have a ‘staycation’ and holiday on home soil during the summer, and with a quarter of the UK population owning a dog, it follows that a significant number of holidaymakers would have dogs with them. It seems a shame that they couldn’t enjoy some of the best beaches in the region.

Another reason for the ban is that lots of people are nervous of dogs or don’t want to be disturbed by them. Fair enough, although it can also be argued that children, youths and drunken adults can also be intimidating or a nuisance.

But many a time I have walked on a beach, in the height of summer, when it has been totally empty. It has been first thing in the morning or in the evening, which leads me to wonder why Devon doesn’t adopt the approach of its neighbour Cornwall.

A number of beaches there have dog restrictions during the daytime, between 7am, 8am or 9am and 7pm. This seems a way to keep everyone happy. Dog owners usually want to walk their dogs before or after the working day anyway, and any mess that does happen to be left behind will be washed away by the tide.

Or perhaps dogs could be allowed on beaches in summer as long as they are kept on a lead, meaning that they get exercise, and their owners can enjoy the beaches, but they would be under control.

The bans in Teignbridge, Torbay and elsewhere don’t just affect dog owners, but also local businesses as dog owners, who make up 26 percent of the adult population, may be more likely to visit places and spend their money where their dogs are welcome.

I think it’s time Teignbridge and Torbay reconsidered their 24/7 summer ban. In the meantime, I’m off to book a holiday in Cornwall.