It's becoming a cold house for dogs — and their owners.
Plans for Draconian rules that would ban people from letting their dogs splash in the sea at the North Down Coastal Path have attracted hundreds of objections.
And now Belfast City Council is following suit, with proposals for new dog control orders that would ban dogs from playing fields, playgrounds and cemeteries and prevent anyone from walking more than four dogs at a time in public.
More than 1,600 people have dog control orders that would ban owners from letting their pets off the lead on the North Down Coastal Path.
The online petition was presented to North Down mayor Wesley Irvine on Monday at the close of a consultation of the new dog control orders planned by North Down Borough Council.
The orders would mean pets would have to be kept restrained at all times in many public areas in North Down — and in some places, no more than two dogs could be walked at a time.
Dog owners insist the dog control orders go too far and will penalise responsible dog owners, making it impossible for them to give their pets the exercise they need to stay healthy. The council is also proposing bringing in seasonal restrictions on the popular Ballyholme and Groomsport beaches so that dogs would have to be walked on a lead in summer, and at all times in other locations.
The proposed maximum penalty for breaching a dog control order will be a fine of up to £1,000, or a fixed penalty fine of £80.
North Down Dog Walkers Group spokesman Terry Malcolm said: “We fully support the council’s proposals in relation to dog fouling but feel more could be done to alleviate this problem by providing more bins in areas and by using enforcement officers to penalise irresponsible dog owners.
“We also understand that there is a small minority of dog walkers who act irresponsibility by not keeping their dogs under control. We agree that in these instances a dog warden should have the right to ask the owner to put their dog on a lead.”
The group launched an online petition — and set up a Facebook page Daft (Dogs Are Furious Too) — which attracted more than 1,600 signatures.
Alliance councillor Andrew Muir said: “It seems that council would be wise to rethink some of the controversial and Draconian dog control orders to ensure responsible dog owners are not unfairly punished,” he said.
“I recently walked along the coastal path and encountered many dogs on and off the lead, none of which were behaving in a dangerous, unruly manner.
“This does not ignore the legitimate concerns expressed over the small number of dangerous dogs sometimes encountered off the lead or a small minority of cyclists who speed along the path in a reckless manner.”
North Down Dog Walkers Group wants anyone concerned to contact their councillor. “We urge North Down Borough Council to meet us, so we can work together,” Terry Malcolm said. The petition is available at: www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dog-control-orders