Dogs on our reserves

Dogs on our reserves

Please be an aware and responsible dog walker to help us keep Kent’s wildlife safe this spring

We love to get outdoors with our dogs, for the fantastic exercise and the chance to explore together.

Dogs and their responsible humans are welcome at most of our reserves and we thank you for being our eyes and ears on the ground and reporting issues to us. We have two simple requests if you visit our reserves with your dog.

  • Please keep dogs on leads - do not throw balls or sticks
  • Please pick up poo and dispose of it in a bin

What's the problem? Why must I keep my dog on a lead?

Some birds nest on the ground in long grass, nooks or at the water’s edge – they don’t all build nests in trees or bushes. An exuberant or inquisitive pooch that’s hunting, chasing or scenting could easily disturb wildlife and scare adult birds off nests or trample eggs. And vulnerable chicks can quickly perish if they are left alone for too long.

The law also says that you must keep your dog on a lead no longer than 2 metres long on access land between 1st March and 31st July to protect ground nesting birds and at all times around livestock. It’s safer to let your dog go if you are chased by cows or horses. Some of our reserves include access land.

What about cattle – do they disturb wildlife?

Cattle and sheep don’t often trample nests because the action of sudden flight from the nest is enough to divert the path of a steadily grazing animal that isn’t looking for interaction. Birds know when they are under threat - dogs trigger the anti-predator instinct in birds, which livestock do not - and act accordingly. Dogs are inquisitive and playful which leads to a much greater level of disturbance.

Can I take my dog to a Kent Wildlife Trust nature reserve?

Nature reserves are first and foremost havens for wildlife; refuges for incredibly rare plants, animals and birds, or pit-stops and roosts for those moving about - and are enjoyed immensely by many wildlife watchers and walkers. We know how important the outdoors is for everyone’s health and wellbeing.

If you bring a dog to a reserve where they are permitted, please keep it on a lead and bag and bin any poop.

Paul Hadaway, Director of Conservation of Kent Wildlife Trust, says:  “We want people to enjoy nature and green spaces, but our reserves are fragile places which are critical havens that protect our most vulnerable wildlife.” 

There are some reserves, like Sevenoaks and Marden Meadow, where you cannot bring your dog. This is because the wildlife living there is under more threat and has nowhere else to go, which even the sweetest, most easy-going pup could disturb and upset. We have more information on our reserves pages which you can use to plan your visit.

If you’d like to know more, the Countryside Code has lots of information and ask us simply to respect, protect and enjoy the outdoors.