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Council urges safety around dogs

25 June 2015

As schools across the Derry City and Strabane District Council break up for the summer holidays, dog owners are being encouraged by the local Council to make every effort to keep children safe when around dogs.  

The Council has advised that dog owners must ensure that their dog is not allowed to stray. The spokesperson advised that under the Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983, a straying dog is defined as a dog that is unaccompanied outside its owner’s property. It is the responsibility of the dog owners to ensure that their dog is not allowed to stray.  

“It is recognised that dogs can easily wander off and become lost, or escape through doors and fences when no one is watching.  The genuine loss of a dog can be a traumatic experience for both the owner and the pet.  Unfortunately in the majority of cases, straying is due to irresponsible dog owners knowingly letting their dogs out to self-exercise and toilet themselves.  Stray dogs can be a hazard on the road.  Many are killed or injured in road accidents.  Dogs may scare people, especially children, cause a hazard to traffic, indiscriminately foul in public places and can on occasions attack people, livestock or domestic pets,” the spokesperson added.

Mark Hegarty. Enforcement Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council said the summer months traditionally see an increase in dog attacks and it’s important that dog owners take the right precautions with their pets to ensure children are kept safe at all times.

He explained: “There is no doubt that there are many benefits to having a dog in the family, they encourage kids to take responsibility and learn respect for another living thing. It also helps give children essential social skills and self esteem and reduce the incidence of allergies, however it’s important that children are taught the basics about how to behave around dogs and to be alert to any potential issues that may result in an attack.”

He said that dogs will only bite when they are protecting themselves or their property, if they are in pain or feel trapped and threatened.

“Sometimes dogs attack if they are over excited or are taken by surprise.  It is vitally important that parents teach children how to behave around dogs and encourage them to be calm, quiet and move slowly around them and not to approach the animal when he is eating, playing with a toy, is sleeping or is sick or injured,” he added.

Enda Cummins, Principal Environmental Health Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council said the Council felt it was important to encourage dog owners to take a responsible approach to dog ownership, particularly over the summer months.

“We are a nation of animal lovers and of dogs in particular but we feel it’s important that children understand how to behave around dogs in their home and in their community so we can all enjoy their company and remain safe, particularly over the summer season. To help us do this we would encourage dog owners to establish house rules and to stick to those rules and to ensure children are always supervised when around dogs.   
“Derry City and Strabane District Council has a Responsible Dog Ownership Strategy that offers advice and assistance to dog owners across the Council area that will help benefit the entire community,” he concluded.