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Dog walking

Chris Lyddon
The Politics Show
BBC South West

Dog owners in Devon are fighting proposals that ban dogs in areas where they have walked for centuries.

Dog owners in Devon are fighting proposals that ban dogs in areas where they have walked for centuries.

East Devon Council is replacing byelaws with dog control orders that cover all land to which the public has access.

The council says it is simplifying existing controls. But campaigners say the orders go too far and are based on insufficient evidence.

The orders will ban dogs from certain areas. All offences would be punishable by a fine of up to £1000 following conviction.

For first offences, officers could issue a fixed penalty notice with a fine of £80.

Campaign group

The orders are causing a storm in Ottery St Mary where a campaign group has been set up.

Ottery Dogs has its own website and has compiled a detailed dossier against the proposals.

The group has also set up a hotline number for people to report concerns over fouling and it has held regular poop-scoop days, in which volunteers walk round town picking up other people's dog mess.

"We totally understand where people are coming from, we completely sympathise with their concerns," said Jeremy Bateson, Chairman of Ottery Dogs.

"Dog mess is unpleasant. But the dog control orders are unnecessary and unfair and won't do anything to stop the people who are actually causing the problem."

Traditional routes banned

Dog walks proscribed and regulated

In Ottery St Mary at the moment dog owners can walk their dogs in the Winters Lane playing field.

They have done it for years. But in future dogs will be banned.

Dogs will also have to be kept on a lead in the Land of Canaan in the town.

"These proposals are not a fair or justified reaction to any issues and seriously discriminate against the elderly, the disabled, those with pushchairs or young children and vulnerable individuals from exercising with their pets," said Mr Bateson.

"There will be no alternative areas accessible within Ottery St Mary where these groups of individuals may exercise their animals.

"General feedback from the community of Ottery indicates that dogs in the areas targeted are not considered to be a problem."

Council concerns

A spokesman from East Devon Council said: "There are many dogs in East Devon and the vast majority belong to responsible owners who take care of them and ensure that they do not foul public areas.

"Unfortunately the small number of inconsiderate dog owners who do not clear up after their dogs cause problems for the community in general.

"For a long time the Council have had byelaws and controls in various parts of the District, and now we are proposing replacing these with a single, simplified set of Dog Control Orders.

"These Orders would ban dogs from certain areas, require dog fouling to be picked up on all open land where the public are entitled to go, and in some areas require dogs to be kept on leads.

"The proposals have been discussed by the Town and Parish Councils across the District who have suggested what may be needed in their local area."

Kennel Club campaign

The only land that will not be covered by the new orders is Forestry Commission land.

Some areas not covered at all before, including Woodbury Common, which is popular with dog walkers and ramblers alike, are covered for the first time.

When dog control orders were introduced in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stressed that they should be considered only if a council could show them to be a "necessary and proportionate response to problems caused by dogs and their owners".

The Kennel Club is campaigning against the new dog control orders and says the response of local authorities is very often disproportionate and heavy-handed.

There is also no appeals process once an order is made.

East Devon has now finished its consultation period and it is assessing all the feedback it has been given but says it will be some time yet before the orders are in place and enforced.

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