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Pet walkers bite back at mandatory dog lead proposals

PUBLISHED: 08:07 07 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:48 07 September 2017

A group of dog walkers object to proposals for Public Space Restriction Orders that make it an offence to let their dogs off the lead. Left to right: Rodney and Claire Nessling, Jenefer and Peter Roberts, Rob Potter, Kelsale-cum-Carlton parish councillor Edwina Galloway Edwina Galloway, Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A group of dog walkers object to proposals for Public Space Restriction Orders that make it an offence to let their dogs off the lead. Left to right: Rodney and Claire Nessling, Jenefer and Peter Roberts, Rob Potter, Kelsale-cum-Carlton parish councillor Edwina Galloway Edwina Galloway, Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Dog walkers have unleashed their anger at ‘totally unnecessary’ plans to fine, or even make criminals of owners allowing their pets off the lead.

An overhaul of existing control orders could see owners charged £80 for letting their dogs loose on any public highway, roadside footpath or pedestrianised town centre in the Suffolk Coastal district.

Anyone refusing to pay up for breaching the Public Space Protection Orders, which also affect sports fields and churchyards, could face prosecution and a criminal record for antisocial behaviour.

Rob Potter, who walks his 10-year-old spinone-Labrador cross, Enzo, with a group of dog owners in Kelsale, near Saxmundham, said: “They’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

“When I walk my dog, we’re virtually the only local traffic, and he’s totally under control off the lead. If he hears a car, he comes straight to my side.

“This seems an undue restriction on responsible people, for no good reason.

“How would it be policed? By relying on people snitching on their neighbours?”

Suffolk Coastal already imposes restrictions at Felixstowe and Aldeburgh beaches during summer months – but under new proposals, would extend the banning of dogs off leads to Shingle Street, from May to September, and Landguard Point, in Felixstowe, all year round.

Mr Potter said he fully endorsed restrictions in the vicinity of ground nesting birds at Shingle Street and Languard Point, but called it ‘unnecessary’ elsewhere.

“It probably won’t change my behaviour,” he added.

“With my hip packing up, it’s harder to walk than take the bike out and let the dog trot behind. It would restrict my ability to take him out.”

The proposals are open to public consultation via eastsuffolk.gov.uk/environment/environmental-protection/animals until midnight on Friday, September 22.

Steve Gallant, community health chief at Suffolk Coastal, said: “We welcome all comments on this subject – but I would stress the need for people to feed their comments through the correct channels, so they can be taken into account and inform the decision-making process on this issue.

“I would urge people to take advantage of the consultation period to have their say and influence the eventual policy, rather than simply threatening to flout the law, if it comes into force.

“Ultimately we want to ensure everyone can enjoy our public spaces, including dog owners, without people being bothered by nuisance dogs, so the proposed changes need to reflect a fair balance for all.”

Public Space Protection Orders were introduced in 2014, by then Home Secretary Theresa May, to streamline powers for dealing with nuisance behaviour or problems in a defined area.

They caused controversy when Waveney District Council tried to double the period of time dogs are banned from Southwold beach last year – leading to public protests, civic society resignations and, eventually, an agreement to shorten the proposed restriction.

The proposed orders in Suffolk Coastal include keeping dogs on a lead on the highway, roadside footpaths and verges, pedestrianised urban areas, sports grounds, cemeteries, churchyards, burial grounds and allotments; excluding dogs from all fenced and gated children’s play areas; and keeping dogs on leads in a designated area south of Shingle Street from May to September, and in the area of Landguard Point Nature Reserve.

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