Council backs off on dog laws after owners bare their teeth
Published 09/02/2013 | 08:00
Hundreds of angry dog owners have forced a U-turn on plans to introduce Draconian dog-control orders.
North Down Borough Council has pulled back on plans to restrict dogs to no more than two per owner in areas and a ban on allowing dogs off the lead on the North Down Coastal Path – a proposal highlighted by the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year.
Instead, dogs will only have to be walked on the lead on the coastal path if directed by an enforcement officer and the restriction on the number of dogs has been raised to six.
The U-turn came after more than 1,400 people signed a petition opposing the plans.
Indeed, North Down Alliance Party councillor Andrew Muir said he had received far more correspondence on the issue than on flags or gay marriage.
Welcoming the decision, which was made at a council meeting earlier this week, he said: "I think the council has struck a sensible balance on this issue. The decision will be ratified at the end of the month."
Other plans to require dogs be kept on leads on particular beaches seem likely to go ahead.
Meanwhile, Belfast City Council is to press ahead with plans to limit the number of dogs walked at a time to four.
However, after receiving a "substantial" number of comments over plans to exclude dogs from playgrounds, playing fields and cemeteries, the council is reviewing its proposals and will soon be advertising a revised consultation with an extended deadline for comments.
Meanwhile, Larne Borough Council is banning dogs from playgrounds and playing fields, but following strong opposition has backtracked on plans to ban dogs from a number of beaches in daytime over summer months. Instead they will have to be kept on leads.
Animal behaviour expert Sarah Millsopp has warned that serious animal welfare issues are raised if dogs are prevented from exercising off-lead.
She stated that some breeds "have to be off lead" as a "requirement for their welfare" and that restrictions would "increase behavioural problems".
Dog owner Hilary Hanberry: "Whilst we welcome the decision relating to the coastal path which now allow dogs to be walked off-lead and the removal of the restriction on the number of dogs that can be walked at any one time, we are disappointed that the council did not review or amend the proposed restrictions placed on Ballyholme beach. We understand that the reason the council have given for imposing the restriction between the hours of 11am and 8pm during June, July and August is to allow children more freedom on the beach."