Dog walkers face a whopping £1,000 fine if their pet chases wildlife – in the woodland where Henry VIII once hunted deer on horseback.
Council chiefs are introducing ‘close control zones’ in the rambling 170-acre Ampthill Park, which is home to rabbits, squirrels and Muntjac deer.
Bosses claim people visiting the park must respect the fact they are ‘sharing the facility with other animal species’ which may fear their pets.
But astonished dog owner Joanne Moore, who was told off by a ranger when he spotted her two cocker spaniels, Flash and Bailey, chasing a Munjtac, said: “That’s bonkers.
“The ranger told me my dogs were putting the deer under stress.
“People living in Ampthill a century ago when Muntjacs first colonised the park after escaping from the Woburn Estate would just laugh.”
Dogs are already banned from the certain parts of the park – including the kiddies’ playground, the tennis courts and around the reservoir – which was designed by landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the 18th century.
But now rangers are being given the power to order people to put their dogs on a lead if they spot the animal ‘causing a nuisance’ in other areas.
Anybody who refuses will be issued with an £80 fixed penalty fine.
Then if they don’t pay up, they could be taken to court and face a maximum £1,000 fine.
A spokesman for Ampthill Town Council said: “We have a responsibility to protect the wildlife as well as providing a facility for people to enjoy.
“Therefore if a ranger feels a dog off the lead could cause a nuisance to people, wildlife or the dog itself, then they will politely request the dog be placed on a lead.
“Fines will not be handed out unless this is a last resort.”
Mrs Moore, of Maulden, said: “I was in Russett’s Plantation with my dogs when the ranger approached and asked if I thought it was ‘appropriate behaviour’ for them to chase the deer. I said they had never harmed one or even come close to catching one.
The story had an unhappy ending when rather than risk a fine, a few days later Mrs Moore took her dogs to exercise in a less remote area.
Bailey strayed on to the road and was knocked down by a car.
As a result he had to have his front leg amputated.