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Hackney Council brings in dog control orders for second time after botched first effort

PUBLISHED: 17:41 25 February 2013 | UPDATED: 18:21 25 February 2013

Chris O'Leary and his golden retriever Cassie. Mr O'Leary is upset about the council's dog control order signs which were incorrect

Chris O'Leary and his golden retriever Cassie. Mr O'Leary is upset about the council's dog control order signs which were incorrect

Archant

A second attempt at introducing powers to curb irresponsible dog ownership following a botched first effort has been slammed as a waste of public money.

The orders passed include:

* A ‘dog exclusion’ order should stop dogs entering certain areas including children’s playgrounds, sports courts, multi-use games areas, and marked games pitches.

* A ‘dogs on leads’ order should stop owners exercising dogs off-lead on roads and in car parks (excluding towpaths), churchyards, communal areas on estates, small public parks and gardens under half a hectare in size and Shepherdess Walk.

* A ‘dogs on leads where requested’ order should give authorised council officers the power to request that dogs are put on leads where they are not under the appropriate control of their owner, or where they are causing damage or acting aggressively.

The three orders support an existing one allowing authorised staff to issue fines to anyone who does not immediately pick up after a dog in their control has fouled in a public area.

Anyone found flouting any of the offences can be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for £80, if unpaid the penalty can be increased to up to £1,000 at Magistrates’ Court.

Hackney Council approved three dog control orders at a cabinet meeting last February, spurred on by concern from residents and park users over dogs off their leads, aggressive animals and dogs in children’s play areas.

But many were angered by the new rules, fearing the responsible dog owners would be penalised instead of tackling the small antisocial minority.

And the scheme was later branded a farce when it emerged that the council had mistakenly passed a “wrongly worded” order which contradicted the initial motion and subsequent labelling on the signs.

Ex-councillor and dog owner Chris O’Leary realised the anomaly when signs went up along the Regent’s Canal towpath where he walks his retriever Cassie. The signs read that canines should be “on a lead at all times”, but the order the council passed stated that dogs should only be “on a lead when requested.”

The council eventually removed the signs and held a second consultation – and last week introduced three new dog control orders.

Mr O’Leary said: “Just seven people responded to the statutory consultation and only three actually supported the proposals, and they are spending at least £15,000 on signs and more money on training.

He added: “Given the huge amount of time and effort and money this is costing, and the significant impact on many people’s lives, I would expect the council to be able to demonstrate that the orders are likely to have some impact on dog-related antisocial behaviour.

“The problem is they can’t – Newham is one of the few local authorities that bothered to evaluate its dog control orders and it found no change whatsoever in levels of reported problems and so few fines were issued that the scheme cost a fortune.”

Cllr Sophie Linden, cabinet member for crime, sustainability and customer services, responded saying over 700 people responded to the initial consultation, with the majority wanting orders to be put in place.

“We have always been clear that they won’t solve all the problems that can arise with dogs but that they will help,” she said.

“It is only right that we put in place signs that let people know what is expected and what fines could be given out.”


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