Dogs are set to be banned at certain times from Mayo’s Blue Flag beaches this summer.

Restricted access for dogs on Mayo's Blue Flag beaches

Exclusion to apply from June 1 to September 15

DOGS are set to be banned from Mayo's Blue Flag beaches this summer.

The exclusion will apply from June 1 to September 15 for six-and-a-half hours each day - 12 noon to 6.30 p.m.

Proposed bye-laws have been accepted by the local authority's environment committee.

They are required to maintain Blue Flag status and will now come before a full meeting of Mayo County Council before being ratified.

Public submissions were invited on the bye-laws, with two being received.

An Taisce has issued notice to all local authorities that to meet Blue Flag criteria, access to beaches by dogs and other domestic animals must be controlled. Failure to introduce the controls would jeopardise the awarding of Blue Flags for the 2022 season.

Committee members, in a report, were told the council's priorities are to retain and regain Blue Flag beaches for Mayo, improve disability access, and it is focused on just current Blue Flag and Blue Flag candidate beaches.

The amendment is to limit dogs during peak (and lifeguard) hours, rather than an outright ban on dogs. The hours proposed are less restrictive than those being mooted in other coastal counties.

Dogs must be kept on a leash and under control at all other times, with all fouling to be removed from the beach.

Guide and assistance dogs are exempt from the bye-law.

Also under the bye-laws, inflatable toys are prohibited and where generators are used in the provision of goods and services at the beach, they must not cause excessive noise disturbance.

One of the submissions received raised concerns around the worrying of lambs and sheep within the Keel area by dogs and the effects on local farmers and that the restriction on dogs on Blue Flag beaches will lead to an increase in sheep worrying by dogs.

The submission also identified a need for additional resources to deal with the control of dogs.

Arrangements are to be made for engagement with the local farming community to ensure additional resources are targeted, in particular during the time periods when dogs are restricted from beaches.

Head of environment Martin Keating said it was felt that the bye-laws were proportional, being only for the bathing season and at limited hours.

Councillor Peter Flynn said this was a divisive topic but from a tourism and health point of view it was imperative.

A separate issue in the by-laws was flagged by Councillor Donna Sheridan who said there could be no commercial filming or photography without permission from the council. Did that mean local photographers had to get consent to take a photo or video?

She was told there was no intention to interfere in their work. It was for filming, where a beach could be taken over by crews over a number of days or weeks.

Cathaoirleach Councillor Blackie Gavin said it was important to retain Blue Flag status. Mayo has some of the best beaches in the country and they had to protect them.