Tough new dog controls ‘would punish responsible pet owners’

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PENALISING dog owners by forcing everyone to put their pets on a lead in Hull’s biggest park would be making the majority pay for the actions of the “irresponsible few”, according to one group.

Hull Council’s Park Area committee is to discuss whether to introduce dog control orders, including making owners keep their pets on leads in East Park.

Last year there were 20 complaints about the behaviour of dogs off leads, including a woman being knocked off a bike by two spaniels and a bull terrier being taken into a children’s playground – where dogs are already supposed to be excluded.

In one incident a dog approached an 18-month old child who was feeding ducks. The child tried to stroke the dog which was then joined by three others, also not on leads, who snapped at the young boy, sparking an altercation between the owner and the father of the child.

The issue has been in the headlines this week after 56-year-old Gary Hindley, of Chingford, Essex was given a 12-week suspended jail term for allowing a Staffordshire bull terrier to get out of control in a park in January. The dog attacked a six-year-old girl and ripped off part of her ear.

Her family has now started a petition to force dog owners to keep pets on leads at all times in public places. East Park Dog Walkers Association says they would not support a similar ban in East Park.

Secretary Kay Foulds, who has two Irish water spaniels, said: “We think the way forward would be (for an officer) to ask a dog to be put on a lead if it was out of control. We were in agreement that that would be fair middle ground and that would help with these irresponsible people. It annoys responsible dog walkers as much as the non-dog owning public.

“Dogs need some form of off the lead exercise. They are already exluded from the animal education centre and the childrens’ playgrounds and the water play area so there are areas where children can go where no dogs are allowed.

“What we have suggested is that dogs would be put on leads at peak summer times in the main family area, the pavilion, and where they feed the ducks because that is the area where the most conflict arises. A ban would make all dog owners suffer for one or two that persistently cause problems.”

Council leader Coun Steve Brady, who sits on the committee, said: “You will never win. You have dog walkers on one hand who like dogs to roam and members of the public who resent it. We have to resolve the situation but make sure that the park is open for everybody. Generally dogs are very well behaved in the park – but it only takes one.”

A report to a meeting on February 22, says owners could face a fine of up to a maximum £1,000 or a fixed penalty notice for dog control orders (DCOs), including not having their pet on a lead, failing to remove dog faeces, or refusing to put a dog on a lead when told to so by an authorised officer.

When previously discussed councillors have been loth to introduce DCOs. A consultation in the summer of 2010 found nearly three-quarters believed dogs should be kept on a lead in the park. However more than half of dog-walkers disagreed.

The report concludes: “The control of dogs in East Park is a contentious issue which is not easily resolved. The introduction of dog control orders for specified offences would provide a useful tool for council officers to deal quickly with dog-related problems. However there is a question as to whether there is a need for these DCOs and if there are appropriately trained staff to issue the DCOs.”

It says a more comprehensive consultation exercise would give a better insight into the views of all park users and allow an informed decision to be made.