Rugby club’s plea to pet owners: ‘Keep dogs off our pitches’

Peter Caldwell, grounds convenor at Ballyclare Rugby Club, has appealed to pet owners to keep their dogs off the club's pitches. INNT 08-006-PSB
Peter Caldwell, grounds convenor at Ballyclare Rugby Club, has appealed to pet owners to keep their dogs off the club's pitches. INNT 08-006-PSB

Ballyclare Rugby Football Club (BRFC) has made a public plea to local pet owners to keep their dogs off the pitches at The Cloughan.

The club’s grounds convenor, Peter Caldwell, said that people are using the pitches to exercise their dogs off the lead, with some irresponsible owners failing to clean up after their pets.

BRFC officials regularly have to clear dog faeces off the playing and training pitches, and Mr Caldwell says the situation has become “totally unacceptable”.

“It’s an ongoing problem, but it’s been getting worse,” he told the Times. “It’s got to the stage where two or three weeks ago a referee had to stop a game on the back pitch until we got the dog mess cleared off the field. It’s totally unacceptable.”

Mr Caldwell said that some dog owners regularly bring their pets to The Cloughan and let them loose to run about the pitches.

“There are two things - the unpleasantness of it and the risk of infection,” he continued. “There is a health issue and an issue of liability should a player contract an infection from the dog mess.

“We have a large number of children regularly using these pitches and it’s certainly not acceptable that they should be put at this sort of risk because of irresponsible dog owners.”

The club has erected signage urging people to keep dogs on leads and off the pitches, but Mr Caldwell said that “a large number of them just ignore them.”

He reminded local pet owners that the club’s grounds are private property and stressed that they do not have permission to exercise their dogs on the pitches.

The rugby club recently raised the problem with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s dog warden, who came out to The Cloughan and spoke with dog owners in the area.

While unable to enforce its Fouling of Land by Dogs Order on the club’s property, the council has confirmed that efforts are being made to tackle the problem.

“Dog wardens from the council have been in contact with Ballyclare RFC and have given advice on how the problem can be addressed. BRFC have been advised to install signage to notify the public that the pitches are not a public place, and to increase security within the area,” a spokesperson explained.

“Council will continue to offer advice to BRFC to help reduce the problem and would encourage the rugby club to raise awareness of the issue within the community.”