The most restrictive laws ever introduced to control activities on beaches in West Kerry came into force this Monday, banning dogs and horses from the sand, taking the wind out of inflatable toys, and ordering boats and jet skis to stay at least 300m from the shore .
majority of county councilors considered The Kerry County Council Beach Bye-Laws 2022 “too nanny state” and even “barking mad”. But, even so, they were adopted at a council meeting held on May 16 because they are considered necessary to meet the terms and conditions of the international Blue Flag scheme which is run in Ireland by An Taisce.
The bye-laws include specific rules for Blue Flag beaches but there is also a raft of new and updated regulations that apply to all beaches, outlawing activities that range from lighting a barbecue to lying in the water on a ‘lilo’ airbed. The bye-laws even make it an offense to give swimming lessons without written permission from Kerry County Council.
Some of the most restrictive regulations apply to Blue Flag beaches during the June 1 to September 15 ‘bathing season’ when dogs and horses are banned between 11am and 7pm daily. Outside of these times dogs are allowed on Blue Flag beaches if they are on a leash and horses are allowed if they are under control, not causing annoyance or danger, not on sand dunes – and their dung must be cleaned up.
Dogs get the slightly better part of the deal because the council can, if it so chooses, designate ‘throughways’ where dogs on a leash can be led through a Blue Flag section of beach and into the relative freedom of non-Blue Flag areas during the daytime. The law is tougher as far as horses are concerned because it’s “prohibited to bring onto or ride, wash, drive or lead any horse onto any part of a Blue Flag beach” from 11am to 7pm.
These regulations apply to Ventry, Inch and Maharabeg beaches in West Kerry and to help people work out if they’re inside or outside the law, Kerry County Council explained that the Blue Flag section of a beach is “typically the area between the lifeguard flags ”.
When the new laws came into effect on Monday there were dogs inside and outside the Blue Flag section at Ventry, which covers about 400m from near the car park to the river at the village end of the beach. However, nobody who might have been on the wrong side of the law was doing so deliberately and every dog owner The Kerryman spoke to was largely in favor of the regulations.
Local resident Chris Byrne, who was taking his Golden Retriever, Sally, for a walk outside the Blue Flag area on Monday afternoon strongly supported the ban, mostly because he sees it as addressing a health and safety issue for children.
“The ban on dogs during the day is a good idea. You always find dog droppings near the entrance to a beach. In Ventry that’s where the Blue Flag section is and it’s also where most families and children go, ”he said. “I always tell people with kids not to sit within 100 meters of an entrance to the beach.”
“In some other countries, such as the US, they have ‘dog beaches’. Confining dogs to the non-Blue Flag areas of a beach is a bit like that… If you want to walk a dog on the beach, just go outside the Blue Flag area, ”he added.
Maurice O’Connor from Dingle was of a similar mind. “The ban on dogs is fine. It only applies to the Blue Flag area and there’s plenty more space in Ventry, “he said. “Leave the Blue Flag area to families and children.”
Cork visitors John, Gary, Donal and Dylan Norberg, who were walking the beach with three terriers, did not have any great problems with the ban either. John, who owned the dogs, said he could understand why the ban was needed because some people don’t clean up after their dogs. He wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the new regulations but, like Maurice and Chris, he felt there was plenty of space outside the flagged area.
Another visitor, Conor Nugent, said he agreed with the ban “to a degree”. On the one hand he felt it is important for dogs to get enough exercise, but he also understood that some people don’t like dogs running free on a beach.
Conor said he wouldn’t bring his own racing greyhounds to a beach, but he likes dogs and was happy to skim stones for a wandering pooch he met on Ventry strand. When Conor got tired of throwing stones the dog headed off to find somebody else to play with, free of restraint or hindrance from the ‘authorized officers’ of the council or anybody else with the power to enforce the new regulations.
Meanwhile, John McCarthy from Milltown was not aware of the new bye-laws and he did not see the notice at the entrance to Ventry beach informing people of the Blue Flag dog ban ban. John thought the law was a bit excessive, but he agreed that dogs should be on a lead – as was the case with his Labrador ‘Bailey’ – and he thought it was especially important for people to pick up their dog’s dirt. “Pity it’s not enforced,” he added.
As far as the law on horses is concerned, John Pat Long of Long’s Riding Stables in Ventry noted that it was ironic that tourism advertising for Ireland often includes pictures of horses on beaches, yet the animals are now banned during the summer.
Some of John Pat’s trekking routes take in Ventry beach so his business is directly affected by the Blue Flag ban, but he said the council had been very accommodating and he was happy to comply with the new laws.
“We always clean up after our horses anyway and we had already taken our horses off Ventry beach on summer afternoons because it has become so busy over the past few years,” he added.
Outside of the regulations governing Blue Flag beaches, Kerry County Council has clarified that dogs and horses are welcome on all other beaches, so long as they are kept under “effectual control” and the owners clean up after them.
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