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    Dog Day: Safety and responsibility during walks in the forest

    Dog Day is celebrated in Poland on 1 July. These furry companions are usually welcome in forests, but we must remember a few rules that need to be followed.

    The summer vacation season is in full swing. A trip to the mountains or the seaside? Many of us can’t imagine a holiday without hiking in the forest with our beloved pets. However, it’s important to keep our dogs on a leash. Why? It’s about the safety of both our four-legged friends and the inhabitants of the forest, such as wild animals.

    For many people, the crossed-out dog sign at the entrance to the forest is incomprehensible. However, restrictions on walking dogs are justified and usually apply to specific areas. If we approach the topic with reason, we can find a way to combine playing with our pets, relaxation, and respect for valuable nature.

    Why can’t we enter every forest with a dog?

    There are many reasons, but the most important ones are:

    1. The scent and loud behavior of dogs can stress wild animals, negatively affecting their reproduction and rest. Just because we don’t see animals during our walk doesn’t mean they don’t sense us. Startled by an unfamiliar “predator,” they may seek shelter or flee, leaving their young behind, for example.
    2. Even domesticated dogs are still predators. We often forget this because many individuals have lost their hunting instincts or don’t have opportunities to showcase them in their daily lives. The size of the dog is also irrelevant – even the smallest breeds are considered a threat to the existence of wild animals according to the law.
    3. If a dog is unleashed, it may chase after wild animals such as deer or boars. This can drive them onto busy roads and cause collisions with cars, potentially leading to tragic consequences for both the dog owner and the animals.

    Therefore, it is worth adhering to basic legal rules and practicing good habits to ensure safety. Where can we walk our dogs?

    First and foremost, looking at the map of Polish forests, there are significantly more places where dogs are allowed than areas with restrictions. Nearly one-third of Poland’s territory (29.8%) is covered by forests. National parks and reserves, which may have restrictions or bans on dogs, account for only about 1.5% of the country’s surface area. Moreover, even within these areas, not all parts are completely off-limits to dogs. Poland has 23 national parks, and not all of them have implemented a full ban. Such restrictions are in a place where nature is exceptionally valuable and numerous species of wild animals reside. It’s important to remember that so-called “wildlife sanctuaries” are designated in our forests, indicated by appropriate signs or boards.

    What should we keep in mind then?

    1. National parks often have different regulations compared to regular forests. It is advisable to familiarize ourselves with the specific rules of the intended area before planning a hike.
    2. Protected areas can sometimes be found in unusual locations, such as the Bielański Forest in the middle of Warsaw’s Bielany district, which is a nature reserve. Similar places can be found in other large cities and their surroundings.
    3. It is illegal to unleash a dog in the forest. According to Article 166 of the Petty Offenses Code, failure to comply with this regulation can result in a fine ranging from 20 to 5,000 Polish złoty. However, such severe penalties are relatively rare, and the usual outcome is a warning.

    If you frequently walk in the forest, it is recommended to equip yourself with a long leash that allows your dog some freedom while still enabling you to maintain control. Leashes of up to 10 meters are available on the market. It’s also worth considering constructive ways to engage your dog during walks. Activities such as fetching, performing tricks, practicing commands, and recall exercises can help tire out your dog mentally and physically without posing a risk to yourself and others.

    Dog Day reminds us of the responsibility we have as pet owners. Let’s remember that our dogs rely on us, both in terms of safety and the protection of nature. By adhering to the rules and showing respect during our forest walks, we can provide our four-legged companions with safe and joyful experiences while contributing to the conservation of wildlife and the precious natural environment of our country.

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