Councillors put Dog Control Orders on a lead - for now

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THE council is to go back to the drawing board and issue another consultation on areas where dogs can be allowed off their leads.

On Monday night a special meeting of the Environment Committee was held to discuss the implementation of the new Dog Control Orders.

They are being considered because current legislation, council officers have said, is out-of-date or no longer enforced.

Earlier this year the council issued a public consultation on the new proposals.

They included enforcement notices for dog owners who could not control their pets or allowed their dogs to foul areas and did not pick up the mess.

The new plans also included zoned areas where dogs could run freely and other areas they were allowed only on leads or not at all.

At Monday night’s meeting, councillors were presented with maps detailing the proposed new zones.

Areas such as play parks and sports pitches were deemed off limits to dogs while other areas, such as the coastal path along the loughshore and parts of the Newtownabbey Way were deemed “on-lead” areas.

Following the earlier consultation this year council officers said there was “no significant opposition” to the proposals and a “great deal of support” from the public for the new measures.

Councillor Ken Robinson said the proposals struck a fair balance.

He said: “This is not targeting responsible dog owners, but rather striking a balance between those cyclists, pedestrians and disabled people who use our parks and paths along with dog owners.

“There are lots of areas identified in these plans that allows dog owners to exercise their dogs freely and other areas were it is only right dogs are on leads and I applaud the council officers for their work.”

However, councillor Tom Campbell disagreed, he said: “These orders have strayed too far. We are exaggerating the issue of problem dog owners in the area.

“In the past five years there have been 24 allegations of attacks on people with dogs, 43 problems of dogs running off leads and causing injury to others and over 150 complaints of dog fouling of which 24 were in play parks.

“The likes of play parks have been rightly identified as areas were dogs can not go, but they are already properly fenced off and dogs should not be in those areas.

“However, the other areas identified as on-lead areas do nothing other than penalise the responsible dog owner and go too far.”

At the meeting three orders were approved. They were the Fouling of Land by Dogs (NBC) Order 2012, which will enable the council to increase fixed penalty notices for the offence.

The Dogs Exclusion (NBC (Children’s Play Parks and Recreation Grounds)) Order 2012, will exclude dogs completely from play parks and recognised sports pitches.

And the Dogs on Leads by Direction (NBC) Order 2012, where a council officer recommends to a dog owner, that it should be on lead where its behaviour is giving cause for concern.

However, the The Dogs on Leads (NBC) Order 2012, has been sent for a further consultation, scheduled for early next year, and will again be put before the public and councillors, before a decision is made on those lands on which dogs can run freely under supervision.

A council officer said there would be a good “lead in period” to make the public fully aware of the new changes before they are introduced.