If you’re a dog walker, new rules being introduced on Sunday could prevent you from taking your pet onto some local land. Regulations tackling failure to clear up dog mess and dog lead restrictions will come into force.
ThisIsAlfred spoke with a Shaftesbury-based professional dog-walker who doesn’t think enough has been done to publicise the changes.
Sunday marks the final day of North Dorset District Council, before the unitary authority takes over. And dog poo rules will be the District’s last day legacy. It is a problem, as anyone who reads the Shaftesbury social media sites will know.
Professional pet-walker, Amanda Kenny, is in favour of £100 fines for owners that leave dog faeces behind. “There is one park in particular that is really bad. It’s near Shaftesbury First School. Even us, as dog walkers, complain about it. I have children and grandchildren and I wouldn’t like the idea of them playing there and getting covered in it. It’s not a pleasant thing,” said Amanda. “Maybe they need a larger campaign to make people aware of it, put more restrictions in place, put up more signs and make sure there are bins. It’s worse when people use a poo bag and leave it at the side of the road.”
If dog owners don’t deal with their pet’s poo, they could face a penalty if caught. “You can be fined for not having the means to pick the faeces up, so if you haven’t got a poo bag on you it is £100,” said Amanda. The Council rules state that being unaware that your dog has defecated is not an excuse.
People who are registered as blind or who have a recognised physical or mental disability are exempt from fines. But someone in authority has to witness the dog ‘in the act’ and then note the owner’s failure to attend to the mess afterwards.
The Council’s regulations say that ‘an authorised person’ will police this. We asked North Dorset District Council exactly who would be watching for offenders and we asked how many dog wardens actually cover Shaftesbury. We didn’t receive a response.
Those officials have the power to insist that an owner keeps their dog on a lead. Failure to obey could bring a fine. The restraint should not extend beyond two metres, just over six feet, from its handle to the dog’s collar. “Loads of people have leads which are longer than six foot long,” said Amanda. “Again, somebody will have to tell owners that they are not allowed to do that. Many people walk their dogs on extendable leads.”
Landowners will be able to ban dogs from their open spaces. That restriction could apply to any fenced, hedged or walled areas, including play parks, bowling greens or tennis courts. There will need to be a sign indicating ‘a dog exclusion area’ but Amanda says it’s not going to be clear where you can and cannot walk dogs. And they will be barred from ‘all marked sports pitches, playing surfaces or athletics tracks’.
“There are some play areas where there are just random goalposts. You won’t be able to walk across any of them,” said Amanda. “They won’t know where they can walk their dog or where they can allow the dog off the lead.”
North Dorset District Council say that they carefully considered dog owners’ views. They received feedback from more than 800 people over whether dogs should be allowed in public places. Breaking any of the new rules could result in a £100 fine. It will be reduced to £75 if paid within 14 days. These new rules override any previous regulations.