A few thoughts on the Dog Control Orders

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With the current Vote Poll on 'Should dogs be kept on a lead on the canal towpath' again a close affair — last night the 'Yes' votes were ahead by just one vote — Peter Morgan, Audlem Parsih Councillor and a member of the Audlem webteam, adds his thoughts to the debate. He says:-

"The Dog Control Order consultation currently taking place is certainly raising hackles in some quarters with a veritable dogfight taking place in the columns of the local paper; many taking the opportunity to have a good bitch about the rights and wrongs of it. Whilst recognising that it is a bone of contention, surely it is time to paws for thought and try to collar the subject before it abandons its kennel completely (like this paragraph for instance).

As a dog owner I would make the following points:

1) Dogs must never be allowed on playing field surfaces, play areas or school grounds.

2) Dogs should always be on a lead in the close vicinity of such areas, ie, when walked around the playing field perimeter.

3) On the canal towpath, dogs should only be required to be on the lead, when within the village/urban confines as marked by signage, to make it clear to both the boating (many of whom have free roaming dogs with them) and walking community, of their responsibilities. Outside of these boundaries, dog owners should be free to exercise their dogs off the lead as many breeds need the freedom of a run. I believe this solution offers the most practical option in terms of signage, policing and enforcement.

4) The Order must exclude working dogs from its control, otherwise, in its proposed application to 'All common land,' we would see the farmers of the Beam Heath Trust, unable to use their dogs to round up their sheep or cattle without the risk of a fine.

5) Whilst walking around the village, I see in the more remote spots, plastic bags in hedge bottoms, or worse still, hanging from bushes. One householder even found one hanging on their garden gate! These are in locations relatively remote from a dog bin. The canal lengthsman informed me recently that he often found them with his strimmer! He expressed the opinion that as long as the towpath and canal side was not fouled he would prefer nature to take its course rather than deal with contaminated plastic. I fear that the order, in its current form, would inevitably lead to much more litter in the environment, creating a greater problem than the one it is trying to eradicate.

6) The provision of more dog bins was recently discussed at Parish Council. Each additional bin is a cost to the parish, but it is the ongoing cost of emptying them that is the main factor, plus locating them within easy reach for the collector. Putting one halfway up the Vale is ruled out because the ground condition and access is too bad.

7) Dog owners and their dogs do need provision of a facility for them to be exercised off the lead somewhere within easy reach of the village. This is especially important for some older or physically handicapped residents, who could end up in the coronary care unit if they tried to give a young dog enough exercise on the end of a lead.

There are important and urgent issues that need to be addressed by the Order such as play surface safety, but overall it needs to strike a fair balance for all in the community for it to command the respect it will need to work.