Belfast Telegraph

Caring owners right to cry foul over dog by-laws

As ever it is the behaviour of the few which cause problems for the many. There is no doubt that dog fouling on pavements and playing areas is a problem as irresponsible owners refuse to clean up after their pet.

Potential problems are also caused by allowing large dogs off the lead in areas where children or other animals may come into contact with them. It is therefore reasonable for councils to introduce by-laws to ensure that dogs are properly controlled in public areas.

But some councils seem to be over-zealous in their attempts to address the problems. To ban dogs from running off the lead in areas like beaches which are unlikely to have anyone on them at this time of year makes little sense. Some councils want to ban dogs in public spaces like cemeteries. An outright ban in such instances is wrong.

The proper approach would be to ask owners to keep the animal on its lead to ensure they have control of it at all times. Where bans make sense are in children's play areas and on playing pitches where dog fouling or potential attacks by dogs could occur.

Many people have a huge attachment to their dogs and want to look after them properly. They will clean up any fouling and will keep the pets under control at appropriate times.

Taking the dog for a walk is part of their daily lives and they have every right to expect to continue doing that even in urbanised environments.

The daily walk is good exercise for both owners and pets and the animals - particularly larger breeds - also need to be allowed space to roam freely. Rather than introducing blanket restrictions councils should provide more bins for the disposal of dog dirt and more wardens to ensure that owners are adhering to sensible measures when taking their pets into public areas. Dog owners can be quite passionate about their pets and councillors could be making a costly mistake in getting on the wrong side of a large constituency. It is better that both sides come to an agreed solution.

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