Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland council axes plan to ban dogs from some public spaces

By David Young

Dog lovers are celebrating after a new super council rolled over and scrapped controversial plans to ban pet pooches from nearly 100 public spaces.

Furious Mid and East Antrim District Council ratepayers had been enraged by the local authority's dog ban plan.

A petition had attracted more than 3,000 signatures in three days, and a massive social media campaign had put enormous pressure on the council.

A 'Walkies' protest was planned for tomorrow in Carrickfergus, and more than 400 people had already signed up for the doggie demonstration in the seaside town.

But in a victory for people power, councillors yesterday made it clear to their chief executive and senior management team that the proposals would have to be withdrawn in the face of the massive public concern.

And in an official statement later, the council admitted it would have to 'bark' down.

Dog Lovers NI, the Facebook page at the heart of the protest, lit up with comments as owners heard the news.

Jim Brolly wrote: " The PAWer of the people is mightier than the people in power. Bravo to all the humans who averted a blatant misuse of power. Now, who's for walkies?"

Kat Atkinson, organiser of the planned Carrick demo, said: "I'm overjoyed by the news that the council has decided to scrap their planned changes to its policy on dogs. This is amazing news and testament to the dog lovers in our community who refused to go away quietly."

Belfast Telegraph columnist Fionola Meredith, who penned a scathing article attacking the dog ban plan, said: "I'm very glad that the council and its officers have listened to the voice of the people, and decided against the foolish tactic of holding all dog owners responsible for the sins of a few."

Mayor Billy Ashe said: "Today's decision is a victory for common sense. Things should never have got to this stage.

"I don't want to have to drive 20 miles to walk my dog - the mayor's dog needs walked too!"

In its statement, the council said: "Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have withdrawn their consultation in relation to the proposed Dog Control Order excluding dogs from dedicated children's play areas and playing fields after concerns raised by residents within Carrickfergus.

"Officers have acknowledged that the public would find the proposals extremely stringent in terms of the number and extent of the exclusion areas, and have on the request of the mayor and councillors withdrawn the consultation."

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