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Why does this feel like an income-generating scam to punish us law-abiding pet owners?

By Fionola Meredith

Published 27/05/2015

Man's best friend? You'd think that dogs were our worst enemy the way one council is behaving.

If Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's new proposals succeed, dogs will be banned from 96 different areas under its control.

Flout the ban and you'll be liable for a fine of up to £80.

Just for daring to take your dog for a stroll in a public place.

What next, forced euthanasia of your pet if you don't have a dog-licence?

Actually, forget I said that, I don't want to give these rules-obsessed bureaucrats any new ideas.

Look, I can understand the need to exclude dogs from playing fields and playgrounds.

Dog mess is potentially dangerous, especially to children.

And there are places where it's better for everyone for dogs to be kept on their leads, such as busy beaches or parks, especially in the summertime.

I've learned that to my cost, with my own dopey Dalmatian Rudi, who thinks that anything left sitting on the grass - a hat, a frisbee, a chicken burrito - is fair game.

After twice getting out my purse and compensating people left bereft of their lunch, I now keep him firmly tethered to my side.

But excluding dogs entirely is a step too far.

If people are keeping their animals on a lead, and picking up the mess, then what is the difficulty?

In an attempt to justify this ridiculous move, Philip Thompson, director of environmental services at the council, says the issue of fouling is a massive source of complaints.

So why not put extra effort into catching the people who don't scoop their dog's poop, rather than punishing the majority of responsible dog owners who cause no problems whatsoever?

Unfortunately, the municipal urge to ban dogs is already an established pattern elsewhere.

There are 219 dog exclusion zones in London, and many more around the rest of the UK.

The Manifesto Club, a civil liberties group which campaigns against what it calls the "hyper-regulation of everyday life", says it's unfair that normal activities, such as walking your dog, or handing out a leaflet, can be an offence if you happen to do them in the wrong place or at the wrong time.

For many of us our dogs are like another member of the family.

They can be particularly important to elderly people, or indeed anyone who finds themselves living alone.

Dogs repay this care with an enormous amount of fun, devotion and slobbery affection, but it's our duty to keep them fit and well-exercised. And we can't do that if intolerant branches of local government start slapping exclusion orders on every bit of green space at their disposal.

Council officials are trying to make it sound like a noble endeavour, for the good of the people at large. But I can't be alone in suspecting that the income stream generated by hitting hapless dog owners with massive fines is the real motivating factor for this petty, punitive scheme.

Belfast Telegraph

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