Muir encourages public to respond to Dog By-laws consultation

Cllr Muir and friend's dog Josh on
North Down Coastal Path
I am encouraging the public to respond to the consultation concerning possible new by-laws affecting dog owners in North Down after securing an extension to the consultation deadline.

North Down Borough Council are seeking the views of the public concerning a number of proposals including possible requirement that dogs must be on a lead in certain areas such as the North Down Coastal Path.

With major concerns already expressed in relation to these proposals I feel that it’s vital that people have ample time to express their views. Council website should also be updated with contact details where feedback should be sent along with the full draft consultation document to ensure the consultation is a meaningful exercise.

I therefore proposed that the consultation deadline be extended from 15 November to 10 December 2012 at a Council meeting last Tuesday 6 November and am grateful to the other Councillors who agreed this proposal. Officers have also agreed to update the website with more information and details how to send feedback.

North Down Coastal Path and the beaches affected by the proposed Dog Control Orders are shared places for use by a variety of users whether they be pedestrians, dog walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users or runners. Safe enjoyment by all can be ensured by everyone showing common sense, respect and courtesy.

If this is not possible then By-Laws exist as an option to ensure safe use of the path and beaches but must be carefully structured to tackle the small minority of irresponsible dog walkers, cyclists, runners etc. Wide ranging overly restrictive and possibly unenforceable rules and bans should be avoided which, if implemented, could deny many people the opportunity to enjoy the jewels in North Down’s crown.

Whilst I do not want to judge the outcome of the public consultation it seems that Council would may be wise to re-think some of the controversial and rather draconian Dog Control Orders to ensure responsible dog owners are not unfairly punished. I recently walked along the Coastal Path with a much loved dog owned by a good friend and encountered many dogs on and off the lead none of which were behaving in a dangerous unruly manner.

This does not ignore the legitimate concerns expressed by some concerning the small number of dangerous dogs sometimes encountered off the lead or a small minority of cyclists who speed along the path in a wreckless manner. Leisurely cycles along recently upgraded sections of the path is permitted, dangerous cycling at speed is unsafe, wrong and should be condemned and forbidden. A wider review to prohibit dangerous and discourteous behaviour by all path users may therefore seem wise to address the legitimate fears and concerns expressed to date.

Readers seeking to find out more about the dog By-Laws can visit www.northdown.gov.uk and send their views to david.brown@northdown.gov.uk until 10 December 2012.