Page last updated at 22:13 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Dog curb over tree-killer disease

Dog walkers in Cefn Onn park (Picture: Media Wales)
Sudden oak death can be spread by dogs via mud on their paws

Restrictions on dog owners and their pets have been introduced in a park after the spread of a plant and tree-killing disease.

Cefn Onn park in Thornhill, Cardiff, has been struck by phytophthora ramorum, or sudden oak death, which has attacked its rhododendrons.

Visitors have been told to keep pets on a lead, stick to pathways and stay out of ponds to help stop it spreading.

The council said it had acted on the advice of the UK government.

Sudden oak death was first identified in California, where it has made tan oaks a rarity.

In the UK, rhododendron and viburnum are the most commonly affected, with the disease threatening plants at some of the National Trust's gardens and landscapes in Scotland over the summer.

The disease has also been found at sites in Cornwall and Northern Ireland.

Owners must also ensure that they and their pets keep to the provided pathways and not roam free within the park
Cardiff council spokeswoman

Sudden oak death causes roots and leaf discolouration and the plant to die.

Cardiff council said it and other agencies had already taken steps to try to control the disease but it had still become more prevalent in the park.

"With initial treatments seemingly proving ineffective, the council has agreed after consultation with the other agencies involved such as the Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission and Defra (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), that stronger action needs to be taken in order to try and prevent the spread of the disease not only within the park, but to other areas," said a council spokesperson.

"Therefore with immediate effect all pets, particularly dogs must be kept on a lead at all times and not enter any of the ponds within the park.

"Owners must also ensure that they and their pets keep to the provided pathways and not roam free within the park.

"The council realises that this will cause some inconvenience to pet owners, but hopes that they will appreciate these measures have not been undertaken lightly and is on the specific instruction of Defra."

The spokeswoman said if these measures were ineffective, stronger and more stringent steps would need to be taken to prevent the further spread of the disease.

A spokesman for Defra said the restrictions were precautionary measures as it was possible dogs could pick up spores on their feet and transfer them to other areas.

Signs have been erected in the park giving more information.

Cefn Onn park was originally designed about 90 years ago. Cardiff council bought the site in 1944.

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