Council denies new Orders are ‘unfair’ to dog owners

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NEWTOWNABBEY Borough Council has denied claims that its new Dog Control Orders are unfair to dog owners and simply a money making scheme.

The new regulations, due to come into effect next month, will make it an offence to take a dog into children’s play areas or onto playing fields. Dog owners could also face a fixed penalty fine for letting their pet off the lead in a number of public places, including on footpaths, near roadways and in certain areas of council parks. Under the new legislation, the fine for owners failing to clean up after their pets will increase to £80.

One Carnmoney dog owner, who didn’t want to be identified, contacted the Times this week claiming that the new regulations are “really unfair on real dog lovers”.

“I agree with the children’s play area bit of the legislation, but it is unfair to punish responsible dog owners by making their dogs be kept on leads in recreation grounds. Dogs have to be allowed to exercise properly; this includes being allowed to run free.

“I really believe that certain aspects of this legislation is totally uncalled for and punishes the normal law abiding dog owners,” he said.

The man claimed that there would be no need for the new, tougher rules and regulations “if the council bothered to properly enforce the current legislation”.

“I believe this is purely a money making scheme for Newtownabbey Council and as a responsible dog owner, who cleans up after his dog, walks his dog off a lead, but puts the dog on a lead beside main roads, or when other people or dogs are nearby, is going to get punished by this police state legislation,” he added.

Responding to the disgruntled dog owner’s claims, a spokeswoman for Newtownabbey Borough Council said: “The council has endeavoured to promote responsible dog ownership over many years, however, continues to receive and respond to hundreds of complaints of dog fouling, straying and dog attacks each year.

“A large proportion of these complaints concern dog fouling and dogs not being kept under control by their owners, particularly in areas used for sport and recreation. Parks are used by a range of people who are not dog owners, including the elderly, families with young children, casual walkers and cyclists. The draft proposals aim to strike a balance for all users of the parks to do so in a safe environment.

On allegations that the Orders were being introduced soley to make money the spokeswoman said: “The council has a statutory obligation to enforce legislation made by Parliament or the Stormont Executive. Enforcement is an expensive process and for this reason Newtownabbey Borough Council has attempted to promote responsible dog ownership through a range of educational initiatives.

“The costs associated with enforcement vastly outweigh any fees recouped by the issue of a fixed penalty notice or costs awarded to council by the courts. Several thousand fixed penalty notices would be required to be issued every year in order to cover staffing, vehicles, legal expenses etc.”

She added: “Newtownabbey Borough Council employs two full-time Dog Wardens plus two full-time and one part-time Enforcement Officer. The Dog Wardens respond mainly to complaints regarding dog control - straying, dog attacks, licensing etc. Enforcement Officers deal primarily with complaints of littering, fly-tipping and dog fouling and schedule patrols in an effort to raise the profile of the service and identify those responsible.

“With over 40 council-owned parks and cemeteries, plus the range of streets and open public space throughout the borough, it is impossible for such a small number of staff to investigate all complaints received or detect every offender.

“In the past year more than 230 fixed penalty notices have been issued and legal proceedings have been initiated in over 70 cases for a variety of offences ranging from littering to keeping a dog without a licence.”

More information about the new Dog Control Orders can be found online at www.newtownabbey.gov.uk