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Dog Control Orders

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environmental Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 – New proposed Dog Control Orders

Part 5 of The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011 enable councils to create up to five separate orders to help manage issues associated with dogs in their area.  Dog Control Orders can be made in respect of any land in the district council area, subject to certain exemptions, and can relate to the following five matters.

(a)  Failing to remove dog faeces;

(b)  Not keeping a dog on a lead;

(c)   Not putting, and keeping, a dog on a lead when directed to do so by an authorised officer;

(d)  Permitting a dog to enter land from which dogs are excluded; and

(e)  Taking more than a specified number of dogs onto land.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) published guidance on Dog Control Orders states that district councils must be able to show that this is a necessary and proportionate response to problems caused by the activities of dogs and those in charge of them.

In 2015 a Dog Control Order (fouling on lands) was introduced throughout the entire Council area.  This replaced the previous provisions contained within the Litter (Northern Ireland) Order 1994.

Proposal

Council’s primary consideration is to balance the interests of those in charge of dogs against the interests of those affected by the activities of dogs, bearing in mind the need for people, in particular children, to have access to dog-free areas and areas where dogs are kept under strict control, and the need for those in charge of dogs to have access to areas where they can exercise their dogs without undue restriction. 

It is also imperative that a Dog Control Order is easy to enforce, since failure to enforce robustly could undermine the enacting of an order.  This is particularly the case for orders that exclude dogs completely from areas of land.

The following orders are proposed:

1.Dogs on a Lead by Direction - This will enable an authorised officer to request a person in charge of dog to put a lead on their dog if the dog is deemed not to be under control.  A dog not under control would be a dog that is not responding to their owner’s commands and is at best a nuisance and at worse a danger to other park users. It is hoped that all users, including walkers of well-controlled dogs, would welcome this facility to address uncontrolled dog behaviour as it is happening.

2.Dogs on Leads - This will apply to all shared use pathways in our parks; the city urban greenway (i.e. extending from Boomhall pathway and Foyle Bridge along both sides of the river to Nixon's Corner and Newbuildings); Swinging Bridge, Sion Mills; Vaughan’s Holm, Newtownstewart; Derg Castle Park, Castlederg; and Ness Country Park, Killaloo.  Dog owners can exercise their dogs off a lead when they are not on the pathways.  However dog will be required to be on lead throughout Brooke Park, Derry; Council owned cemeteries, Council owned lands surrounding Council Leisure Centres and Community Centres, including associated car parking.   

3.Dogs Exclusion - This will apply to all Council owned children’s play areas, whether fenced or not; football fields, MUGA pitches, tennis courts and bowling greens.  It will also include the children’s play area in Ness Country Park, Killaloo.  The exclusion of dogs from these places presently exist but will now be supported with this legislation.  

The penalty for committing an offence contained in a Dog Control Order is a maximum level 3 fine (currently £1000).  Alternatively, the opportunity to pay a fixed penalty of £80 could be offered in lieu of prosecution; which could be further reduced to £50 for early payment.

The Dog Control Working Group has created an advisory leaflet for members of the public outlining the reasons why Council is bringing in Dog Control Orders; explaining what a dog control order is and what orders are being proposed; as well as a comprehensive list of Questions and Answers which should deal with most queries.

Procedure for making a Dog Control Order

Regulation 3 of the Dog Control Orders (Procedures) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 sets out the procedure for making a dog control order:

Council must undertake comprehensive consultation with stakeholders and members of the public prior to this dog control order being made.  This would involve publishing a notice describing the proposed order on the council’s website and in the local newspapers and invite representations on the proposals.  The final representation being at least 28 days after the publication of the notice. 

At the end of the consultation period Council would have to consider any representations that have been made.  If a decision is made to proceed with the order, Council would need to decide when the order would come into force, which must be at least 14 days from the date on which it is made. Once the order has been made Council would, at least 7 days before it comes into force, publish a notice in the local newspapers stating that the order had been made; and where the order could be inspected and copies of it obtained.  A copy of the notice would also be published on the Council’s website.   The Council would then erect suitable signage, where applicable, throughout the Council area informing people of the orders.

Further Developments

Although we believe that the descriptions of the types of lands where controls will apply are fairly easy to understand we are presently developing an on-line map with colour coding for the areas that have different controls.  It should be noted that many of the proposals; especially those in relation to exclusion of dogs from areas are already in place. Dogs are currently not permitted in Council play areas, football pitches, multi-use games areas, artificial pitches, bowling greens or tennis courts; however, the proposed orders will give the Council more power to take action on breaches of these regulations.

The Dog Control and Animal Welfare section of Health and Communities will promote awareness of these Orders as well as other aspects of responsible dog ownership through the creation of a Responsible Dog Ownership booklet.  In addition to the highly successful Schools Education programme a Community Education Programme will be developed and delivered throughout the Council area.

In addition to dog wardens enforcing the dog control orders there will be a number of frontline staff from across the various sections of Council authorised to enforce some of the controls, where relevant to their work, to ensure a more effective and comprehensive approach to responsible dog ownership. 

An evaluation will be carried out after one year on all Dog Control Orders to determine the effectiveness of each order, the level of compliance and a consideration of whether additional controls should be added or some controls be relaxed. 

The entire objective of the dog control orders is to be an effective additional tool in promoting responsible dog ownership.

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