Belfast Telegraph

Dog owners fuming at Stormont estate order to keep pets on leash

By Joanne Sweeney

Dog lovers have been left fuming over a Stormont estate order that their pets have to remain on the leash while walking in the park.

A quickly organised demonstration attracting around 100 dog walkers was organised on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook and held yesterday morning to let the Stormont Estate management know of the anger against the decision.

Hundreds of men and women who walk their dogs daily on the expansive green of Stormont's grounds only found out about the ban on Thursday morning from a public notice.

Now there are hopes that the estate dog walkers and management can reach a compromise following a meeting between both sides yesterday.

Speaking on behalf of the soon-to-be-formed Stormont Dog Walkers Association, Jimmy McNeill said: "Putting it bluntly, there have been some bloody-minded irresponsible dog owners who have messed things up for the rest of us.

"We are confident that if we work hand in hand with Stormont management a sensible solution can be found for all."

The ban was made after claims of recent problems with dog management including:

  • An elderly man knocked over and injured by a free-running dog;
  • Several children have been bitten;
  • An increase in dog fouling;
  • Complaints from other members of the public who claim they are afraid to come on to the estate due to "fear of unsupervised and uncontrolled dogs"
  • Considerable damage being caused to newly planted flower beds.

However, it seems that this new ban is not new but one of the original estate rules that has now had to be enforced due to the recent incidents.

Last night, a spokeswoman for the Department of Finance and Personnel, which manages the estate, said: "The majority of dog owners are responsible and either keep their dogs on leads or closely supervise them.

"Unfortunately, we have been experiencing problems with free-running, unsupervised dogs and have received a number of complaints of dog attacks on people visiting the estate."

The spokeswoman added that the 1933 regulations state: 'No dog shall be admitted to the estate unless under proper control.'

However, dog owner Kirstie Henry is livid about the ban and said: "I'm looking forward to speaking to the steward who tells me to put my dog back on the leash. It's absolutely ridiculous and unfair to responsible dog owners. Dogs need to exercise and to socialise, I've been walking my dog there ever day for the last 10 years."

Dog owner Nicola Faulkner already inadvertently flouted the ban last night walking her two cocker spaniels, Maggie and Flo.

"My dogs are being unfairly punished due to a few irresponsible owners who can't control their dogs. As the evenings are getting longer, I've been looking forward to going to Stormont with the dogs so they can get a proper run."

A public meeting for all interested dog walkers will take place in the NICS Sports Club next Wednesday from 7pm.

FACTFILE

  •  On an average week-day Stormont Estate attracts over 600 dogs, and 500 more dogs at the weekends.
  •  Stormont Estate is a working estate and as well as being the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly also accommodates a number of NICS departments with 4,000 staff working there.
  •  On a work day, this attracts over 4,000 vehicles.
  •  The current ban on dogs being off the leash is accordance with the 1933 Stormont Estate Regulations; the Dogs Order 1983 and 2011 also apply.

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