Hackney Council makes a “dog’s dinner” implementing canine control orders

Town hall chiefs have been accused of creating a “a dog’s dinner” over new powers to control irresponsible owners and their pets.

Dog owners across the borough are up in arms after Hackney Council made a dog’s dinner of implementing new powers to control canines in the borough.

Former Hackney councillor Chris O’Leary has questioned the validity of the council’s recently introduced dog orders, after it emerged a “wrongly-worded” order was mistakenly passed by the council’s cabinet in February.

Many of the borough’s dog owners were angry when the council announced the legislation last summer, fearing it would penalise the vast majority of responsible dog owners instead of tackling the small antisocial minority.

But the council, spurred on by concern from residents and park users about dogs off their leads, aggressive dogs and dogs in children’s play areas, went ahead and approved three dog control orders at a cabinet meeting on February 27.

They included a dogs exclusion order, a dogs on leads at all times order and a dogs on leads when requested order and should have come into force on April 1.

Notices informing the public along the Regent’s Canal towpath, where Mr O’Leary walks his retriever Cassie, only went up this month.

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He immediately spotted that instead of reading “on a lead at all times,” they should have read “on a lead when requested”.

However the council insisted the signs were correct, admitting the “wrong order” had been passed in February.

On April 23 cabinet had “amended” the order to correlate with what the council consulted on which was “dogs on a lead at all times” on a towpath.

However until last week the council website contradicted this, by stating dogs on towpaths were to be “on a lead at all times” as well as “on a lead when requested.”

“I appreciate that the council intended to do something completely different to what is actually did when it agreed the dog control orders,” said Mr O’Leary.

“But once the orders were agreed by council, that is the legal position and they have to stick by it.

“Once the order was agreed by the Council, the law requires a consultation process is undertaken if the order is to be changed.

“In effect, and to use an analogy, it is rather like the Government saying ‘This Act agreed by Parliament says X, but that is not what Parliament meant to say, so we’ll just ignore that and do we want actually want to do.”

Mr O’Leary also questioned the council’s right to put the signs on the towpath in the first place, which isn’t public land but owned by the charity Canal and Rivers Trust, formerly British Waterways.

A spokesman for the council said they did not agree with Mr O’Leary that procedures had not been properly followed, and that 64 per cent of respondents to the consultation were supportive of the control orders.