Banning dogs from parks plan ‘wrong and unfair’

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

That is the verdict from Banbridge-based dog shelter owner, Gillian McFadden who doesn't believe it's fair to punish responsible dog owners for the "sins of the few" who flout dog fouling procedures.

Council has proposed banning dogs from 94 parks in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon borough with almost 30 in this area.

The proposal is now out for public consultation until 24 March and to date no responses have been received, according to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council.

Calls have been made for the council to be "sensible" in their approach to imposing any legislation, with the likelihood that responsible dog owners will ultimately be punished for the actions of those less responsible.

Ms McFadden, of the Doghouse Sanctuary on the Lisnaree Road, said she did not agree with the ban.

“I think it would be wrong to ban dogs from all parks, like Solitude Park, as people need somewhere to walk their dogs. I think they should be allowed to walk their dogs in Solitude Park if you are a responsible dog owner," she said.

She believes council could do more to help discourage dog fouling.

“The council could do more like hand out doggy bags, as people can genuinely forget to take them with them when they go out. If they had a point of collection in the park, then it would make it easier for them to dispose of the dog foul in the proper way.

“Out of every four brilliant dog owners, there is one who lets us down," she said.

A USPCA spokesperson called on council to consider its true purpose in introducing such a ban.

“The vast majority of dog walkers and their pets are very well behaved. Laws to punish irresponsible owners for failing to clear up dog fouling and stop attacks on both humans and other dogs are already available to the councils," they said.

“Perhaps local authorities should review the efficiency of current enforcement arrangements before banishing ratepayers and pets from public spaces."

The main focus of the order is to eliminate the potential risk of dog fouling in an area where young children and families will be present.

“I understand where they are coming from with not wanting dog fouling in play areas, where children are at risk, but I do not think they should be banned from all parks completely," said Ms McFadden.

“If a child puts their hand in it then that is wrong and dangerous, but they need to be sensible about this, people also need a safe area to walk their dogs.

“If there is an enclosed play area within a park, then they can ban dogs from that, but not from a park in its general sense."

The council believes that by excluding dogs from play parks they will reduce the risks of dog attacks in an area frequented by young children.

“Legislation that excludes dog walkers from public spaces is becoming commonplace across the UK. Laws that are imposed by our district councils are responses to complaints about dog fouling in public spaces and dog attacks," said the USPCA spokesperson. 

However, the council's spokesperson said the proposed legislation was part of a wider aim.

“The order is being introduced as part of the council's ongoing commitment to promote responsible dog ownership as well as providing safe controlled environments for play," they said.

“The order will also replace the part of the byelaws that exists across all of the former council areas excluding dogs from play parks, so this is not a new provision, rather updating and modernising how this requirement is applied."

Despite what the order is intended to do, in relation to reducing the risk posed to the public by dogs, figures are not recorded for complaints for areas such as play parks.

“All dogs will be covered by the order with the exception of a guide dog or assistance dog accompanying a person registered to require the dog," said the spokesperson.

If a stray dog is found in one of the excluded areas, the council dog wardens will investigate and the owner may be subject to a fine.

A spokesperson for the council revealed to The Outlook that at present no responses have been received by the council.

“The public notice applies to proposed introduction of the order and offers a consultation period of 28 days from publication until 24 March," said the spokesperson.

“We are required to ask the public for their views in the making of a dog control order. The order has not been brought into force yet and the council will take into account any views expressed to help them make their final decision."


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