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The little-known French law that could see dog owners fined €750 this spring

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
The little-known French law that could see dog owners fined €750 this spring
France imposes extra restrictions on dog-owners in the spring. Photo by JUSTIN SULLIVAN / Getty Images via AFP

Dog owners are being warned of extra regulations that are in place during the spring - with €750 fines for those who breach them.

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Starting on Monday, France's 'spring time law' comes into place, which everyone walking their four-legged friends in rural areas needs to know about.

Between April 15th and June 30th all dogs must be kept on a lead in rural or woodland areas.

This is in order to avoid disturbing the breeding season of wild animals, since springtime is when most animals have young around who are vulnerable to being disturbed (or worse) by dogs that are off the lead.

The law (Article L211-16 of the French Rural and Maritime Fishing Code) forbids people from walking unleashed dogs outside of the pathways in wooded or forest areas. 

READ MORE: What you need to know about owning a dog in France

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It is also forbidden to allow dogs to roam in cultivated or uncultivated land, meadows, vineyards, orchards, marshes and the banks of watercourses, ponds and lakes.

Walking your dog on the lead in woodland or rural areas is fine, and the law does not apply to public highways, beaches or private land.

The 'spring time law' is only in place for three months of the year and the rest of the time it is fine to allow your dog off the lead in forest or meadow land, provided it is not category 1 or 2 dog (attack dogs or guard dogs).

Category 1 and 2 dogs must be kept on a lead at all times in public places and some types of dog may be required to wear a muzzle.

READ MORE: What is the law on dangerous dogs in France?

The Office national des forêts said that dogs could be off the lead on the paths through designated forest land, which are defined as "roads, paths or forest trails, long-distance hiking trails, but also all footpaths".

If the dog is off the lead, it must be within 100 metres of the walker at all times.

A ONF spokesman explained: "It is at this precise time of year that mammals start giving birth and birds start nesting.

"With their extremely keen sense of smell, the dogs could easily spot newborns in the forest and birds nesting on the ground in open spaces such as moorland and fallow land.

"By their mere presence they could disturb and stress forest animals that are particularly sensitive during this period, thereby jeopardising their reproduction", added the ONF, pointing to the stress on the female and the change in her behaviour, abandonment of the reproduction site (nest, for example, or fawn if the disturbance is too great, as the doe may abandon the young)."

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Failure to comply with the rules can result in a fine of up to €750.

The law is not new - in fact it has been in place since 1955 - but it is not widely known, so forest officials have decided to re-publicise it this year in the hope that dog owners will keep their pets on a lead to avoid disturbing the wildlife.

Local rules

The above laws are national laws, but local authorities also have the power to impose lead rules in certain areas, or to ban dogs entirely.

Dog owners using parks, public gardens, beaches or other areas owned by the local authority should check the rules in their area.

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