Dog owners urge council to reconsider park plans

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A GROUP of concerned pet owners gathered at Mossley Mill on Monday evening (September 3) to appeal to councillors to reconsider aspects of the proposed new Dog Control Orders.

The proposals, which could see owners hit with fixed penalty fines for letting their pets off the lead in certain public places such as parks and playing fields, are aimed at tackling problems such as straying and dog fouling.

However, disgruntled dog owners argue that their pets need areas of open space where they can be exercised off the lead. And they claim that the council’s plans, which were put out for public consultation last month, are unfair to responsible owners.

At Monday night’s Environment Committee meeting several councillors echoed the concerns of the dismayed dog owners, who’d gathered outside the foyer of the borough’s civic headquarters to lobby elected members ahead of their monthly get-together.

DUP alderman Paul Girvan claimed that many owners weren’t aware of the Dog Control Orders public consultation process, despite it being advertised in the press, online and at council facilities. He said that information signage regarding the ‘traffic light system’ should be erected in parks used by dog walkers and vowed to hold a public meeting in Ballyclare to hear people’s concerns about the council’s controversial plans.

“A lot of people weren’t aware that this consultation was taking place and just how much this new legislation will impact upon them,” he said.

His party colleague Robert Hill and Alliance councillor Billy Webb both went on to highlight the need for areas in the borough’s parks to be open to dog owners to exercise their animals off the lead.

Responding to members’ concerns, the council’s Deputy Chief Executive, Hugh Kelly, confirmed that public consultation on the proposed Dog Control Orders ended on Friday, August 31. He made it clear that the proposed legislation has not yet been enforced, and he assured members that there will be an opportunity for further consultation should it be required before the Dog Control Orders are introduced.

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