Barking Blondes: Dog-free zones, the Bulldog MeetUp Group and fouling
There is growing unrest amongst many dog owners in London. It seems that in the same way a motorist may, unwittingly, stray into the Congestion Zone or bus lane, so dog walkers may be breaking the law. Restrictions and enforcements across the capital are up and if London is used as a barometer, we can only assume it’s becoming a national issue.
Dog walking has been banned in more than 300 places across London with residents committing offences for simply ‘walking the dog’. Some of the boundaries of these no dog zones, found in parks and open spaces, are often unclearly marked and dog owners could receive fines of up to £80 if they stray into them.
We agree that certain areas in municipal parks should remain dog free as not everyone is a dog lover and people should have a choice of where to chill. Never was this better demonstrated than last summer, when a lovely little family decided to picnic where the monthly Bulldog MeetUp Group was gathering in Hyde Park. Hitchcock would have been proud of the ensuing drama culminating in the abandonment of a plaid blanket and the disappearance of four french loaves.
Yet it seems discriminatory to impose ‘restriction’ orders on dog owners. Under the Control of Dogs Order Regulations 2006, councils have been allowed to designate parks and open spaces – traditional dog-walking destinations – as Dog Exclusive Zones. In some boroughs, officials can issue penalties of £80 to anyone who lets a dog off its lead or allows it into a restricted zone. In Greenwich last year 24 out of 56 dog-related fines were issued in Greenwich’s dog-free zones.
Dog fouling in parks is on the increase and we worry that a minority of dog owners are tarnishing the majority with their irresponsible behaviours. Waltham Forest Council are currently consulting with residents and tell us “We know most dog owners are sensible, responsible people, but we also have to account for those too lazy to pick up after their pooch or who keep a dangerous dog as some sort of status symbol.
We want our local parks to be welcoming places for everyone to visit, whether they’re walking their dog, having a picnic or enjoying a kick about and ultimately we want local people to give us their views to help us get it right. Keeping your dog on a lead is also becoming mandatory with some local authorities and raises health concerns for owners with breeds that simply “need to run”.
In the States dogs are only allowed ‘off the lead’ in dog parks and owners are concerned that the UK may well adopt this practice. Many dog owners who chose to live in close proximity to parks (that are now restricting dogs) find themselves marginalised and forced to travel distances simply to allow their dog to run.
These control orders also pose problems for responsible dog owners under the Animal Welfare Act, which clearly states that dogs should receive appropriate exercise. Dogs, like their owners need proper cardiovascular exercise not only to stay fit and slim, but to keep them mentally well too. Introducing rules that only allow dogs on a lead could exacerbate problems in behaviour and encourage obesity.
Perhaps not enough has been done to ‘legislate’ dogs up until now and these draconian park restrictions are the price dog owners have to pay thanks to some peoples’ inability to pick up their dog’s poo. Or maybe this is simply another loaded issue in the debate of whether its actually right to own a dog in a city?
The Barking Hour’ is on Thursdays on BBC London 94.9fm from 3-4pm
For more information visit www.barkingblondes.netTagged in: Bulldog MeetUp Group, Congestion zone
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