We'll fight them on the beaches, campaigner vows over dog ban
He organised a 1,000-dog protest march on West Strand in Portrush – and now Willie Gregg says he can muster 2,000 dogs if he needs to.
The mass protest was staged last year to highlight tough new dogs orders proposed by Coleraine Borough Council.
A fresh consultation has now been published by the council, but organiser Willie says the plans are still far too draconian and could deter thousands of holidaymakers from coming to the north coast.
Instead of permanent dog bans from a number of beaches, the council is now proposing that dogs be banned during the summer months from certain areas of beach.
It is also proposing banning dogs all-year round from many of the borough's most popular open spaces, including the clifftop walk at the recreational grounds on Ramore Head in Portrush, the Rose Gardens in Coleraine, the Lower Secret Garden in Antrim Gardens, Ballyreagh Golf Course and the Herring Pond at Portstewart.
Mr Gregg, who runs the dog-friendly Harbour Bar in Portrush, says the rules could put off thousands of holidaymakers who might believe a blanket ban has been put in place.
"Everybody is getting tarred with the same brush – the buck eejit that can't look after his dog and the guy that looks after his dog," he said.
"We have tens of thousands of people coming to the north coast for their holidays – a large percentage of them bring their family pets. It is going to end up that they are literally going to have to get a pocket guide map to see where they can take their dogs."
Mr Gregg said that he thought some of the 12-month bans were draconian.
"I don't think it's fair and right that there should be a 12-month ban on these areas," he said.
"I think there should be some rights for dog owners.
"Thousands of dog owners come here on holiday.
"The only industry left here is the leisure and tourism industry and we need to look after these people."
Mr Gregg said he believed there will be some sort of protest before this issue was concluded.
"After what I achieved last year, I wouldn't think twice about doing it again," he said. "Last year we had more than 1,000 dogs – I think there could be 2,000 dogs if required."
The orders would also make it an offence not to keep a dog on a lead in a designated area, not to pick up after your dog when it fouls, and not to put a dog on a lead when ordered to do so by a council official.
Jackie Barr, head of health and built environment at Coleraine Borough Council, said: "The findings of this consultation could ultimately result in dog control orders being implemented and made law, so it is important to gain the views of a wide range of people who live and visit the borough of Coleraine.
"It is also important to install a responsible ownership regime for everyone so that the consultation process provides an opportunity to gain an insight from all perspectives.
"These actions are being taken to ensure that the borough continues to be a healthy and enjoyable place to live and visit, whilst ensuring that dog owners meet their responsibilities and duties."
The public consultation on the dog control order will remain open for another three weeks until February 12.