An obscure rule that has been in force at Belfast City Council for five years has resulted in two people being fined... for walking too many dogs.
A Freedom of Information request reveals on two separate occasions in 2016, two people were fined £80 each for walking too many dogs in Belfast’s Tullycarnet Park.
The fixed penalty notices were issued under The Dogs (Specified Maximum) (Belfast) Order 2012, which came into force in April 2013.
“On land to which this Order applies, the maximum number of dogs which a person may take onto that land is four,” the Order reads.
If fines are not paid within 14 days, the council is able to take the offender to court.
According the council figures, the council has only ever enforced the “too many dogs” rule twice on council land in Belfast since it came into force - both cases occurring in the same month (September 2016) and in the same park, Tullycarnet.
The order was created under The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011 and covers the Belfast City Council area, including all parks and open spaces.
When the rules were being discussed at City Hall back in 2013, the then-DUP councillor Christopher Stalford questioned the affect the rule would have on professional dog walkers.
Some claimed dog walkers could feel "discriminated against" under the new rules, according to council minutes.
Local councils in Northern Ireland have authority over dog licensing, fouling and straying and employ dog wardens to deal with incidents involving dogs on council land.
“The Dogs (Specified Maximum) (Belfast) Order 2012 was created under the The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011, which allows local authorities to set a limit on the number of dogs a person may walk at any one time," a BCC spokesperson said.
"Four is generally accepted as the maximum number of dogs any one person may safely control.”
Earlier this week, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council had to apologise to a local woman after she was mistakenly told by the council’s dog warden that a stray she had rescued had been put down.
Catherine Ward (22) was told the lurcher dog she found in the car park at Valley Park had been put to sleep despite her request that it was sent to the Dogs Trust, a charity which has a “no kill” policy.
It later emerged the dog was not dead and there had been a "miscommunication".
Local News Partnership