Derry City and Strabane District Council - Proposed Dog Control Orders
Why is the Council bringing in Dog Control Orders?
The majority of dog owners in Derry City and Strabane District Council are very responsible. They keep their dogs under control and clean up after them. The Dog Control Orders are proposed to stop the problems caused by the few irresponsible dog owners who spoil things for other dog owners and non-dog owners alike in our public places.
What is a Dog Control Order?
The law allows councils to make orders to
- keep dogs on leads in certain areas
- prohibit dogs from certain areas
- restrict the number of dogs a person can be in charge of at once
- require a dog to be put on lead when a council officer requests it
- require clean up after a dog fouls.
What Control Orders come into effect on 5th April 2021?
- Dogs on Lead Order: 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. It will also include Brooke Park, Derry (entire park area); Council owned cemeteries, Council owned lands surrounding Council Leisure Centres and Community Centres, including associated car parking
- Dog Exclusion (Dog ban) Order: 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 include Brandywell Stadium and Showgrounds (excluding the Greyhound Racing Stadium), St Columb’s stadium pitch and track, and Ness Country Park children’s play area, Killaloo.
- Dogs on Lead by Direction Order: This will apply to all outdoor public places in Derry City and Strabane District Council where dogs can usually be off lead. It will mean that anyone walking a dog must put the dog on a lead if asked to do so by a council Officer.
My dog is very well behaved and walks to heel, why does it have to be on lead in the park or on the city urban greenway?
Even the best-behaved dog can be distracted by an incident or another animal in a shared use pathway, and if this happens there is the possibility of an accident with injury to pedestrians, road users or even the dog.
What is meant by a ‘Direction Order’?
Although dogs will still be able to exercise off lead in parks, when on a shared use pathway, this should be seen as a privilege for owners who can, and do, keep their dogs under control even when they are off lead. Dogs which owners either can’t or don’t keep under control are at best a nuisance and at worst a danger to other park users. The Direction Order is the facility for a council officer who observes a dog not under sufficient control to tell that dog’s owner to put that dog on lead. 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.
This order means that a person in charge of a dog is guilty of an offence if at any time that person does not comply with a direction given by an authorised officer of the Authority to put and keep their dog on a lead (no more than 1.8 metres/6 feet in length). The order applies to land which is open to the air (which includes land which is covered if it is open to the air at least one side) to which the public are entitled or permitted to have access, with or without payment.
What do you mean by ‘under control’?
It is impossible to list every scenario in which a dog falls under this description or outside it, but generally a dog will be considered to be under control if the owner remains aware of where the dog is and what is doing, and can call it to heel and have the dog return immediately.
Are you going to produce maps showing what rules apply where?
Not initially as we hope that the descriptions of types of land will be clear enough. Basically, dogs have to be kept on lead on shared used pathways in parks, Brooke Park, the city urban greenway, cemeteries, Council owned areas around leisure centres and community centres including associated car parks. Dogs can be exercised off lead in park green spaces if the owner can keep it under control. If asked to put a dog on lead by a council officer, the person in charge of the dog must do so. Dogs are not allowed in children’s play areas, football pitches, MUGAs, tennis courts and bowling greens.
An on-line map with colour coding for the areas that have different controls as well as an accompanying booklet is currently being developed.
Will you be putting up signs saying what orders are in place?
We will be putting up as many signs as possible to guide people and will continue to spread the information about the orders through the Council website and local media and other campaigns. We favour knowledge and compliance over enforcement. We will do our best to educate everyone involved, but we also recognise the onus on the dog walker to familiarise him/herself with the rules of the Council when exercising a dog.
How will the orders be enforced?
The Orders will be enforced by Dog Wardens; however, it is proposed that “Dogs on Lead by Direction” will include: Park Wardens, Cleansing Supervisors, Leisure Services Duty Managers, Neighbourhood Wardens, Litter Wardens and other council staff if deemed appropriate.
Is anyone exempt from the Orders?
Exemptions are in place for registered guide dogs and trained assistance dogs.
How will I know whether the person is an Authorised Officer?
All authorised officers carry identification.
What does the Dogs on Leads Order mean?
This order means you must keep your dog on a lead at all times on land to which this order applies, such as shared use pathways in parks, the inner greenway network and other specific areas where there will be 'dogs on leads' signs. Dog owners can exercise their dogs off a lead when they are not on these pathways.
What is a public place for the purpose of On Lead by Direction Orders?
This will apply to any outdoor place or land which is open to the air (which includes land which is covered if it is open to the air at least one side) to which the public are entitled or permitted to have access, with or without payment.
Why can Authorised Officers direct you to put your dog on a lead?
This order is to ensure that dogs that are a nuisance or behaving violently towards people, other dogs or animals are under control by being kept on a leash by their owner or person in charge of the dog at the time.
I've heard that I can't walk my dog on an extendable lead - is this true?
No, not really. You can walk your dog on an extendable lead, but only if you don't allow it to extend beyond no more than 1.8 metres (6 feet) in length. No lead must be longer than this. For larger dogs it is strongly recommended that a static lead is used as the tensioner may not be strong enough to control the dog at times.
What if I take my friends dog for a walk, does the law still apply for me?
Yes - the person in charge of the dog at that time is responsible.
What does the Dog Exclusion Zones Order mean?
This order makes it an offence to take dogs onto or into any exclusion areas. These areas have signs, saying: 'No dogs allowed' or 'Dog exclusion area'.
Can I take my dog into a dog exclusion area?
Clearly not, unless you are registered as a blind person or are someone who has a disability for which you rely on assistance of a dog trained by a specified charity, such as Canine Partners for Independence , Dogs for good or Support Dogs. Working police dogs can also enter exclusion areas with their handler.
If you are not registered blind and have an assistance dog, you can't take your dog into exclusion areas, such as children’s play areas, football pitches, MUGAs, tennis courts and bowling greens.
Why are dogs allowed into Cemeteries?
Council seldom receives complaints in regard our cemeteries; however when this has occurred it was due to dogs being allowed to stray and indiscriminately foul. We are satisfied that if person visits a cemetery with their dog on a lead and always cleans up after their dog that there should be no issues.
Will my dog have to be kept on a lead in our parks?
Dogs will be required to be kept on a lead when being walked along all shared use pathways in our Council Parks but can be let off the lead when dog owners are not on the path. It should be noted that dogs must be under control at all times i.e. a dog must be obedient and respond to the dog owner's/walker's commands.
A notable exception is Brooke Park; dogs will be required to be kept on a lead at all times throughout the park as this is an ornamental park.
Why can’t I responsibly exercise my dog on a football pitch when it isn’t in use?
Dogs exercising on the football pitches occasionally foul on them and even when this is cleaned by a responsible dog owner it still presents an avoidable and unnecessary health hazard to those playing football.
Why are dogs not required to be kept on a lead throughout our parks?
Although Council receives complaints from members of the public regarding certain parks about dogs not being under control we believe that the proposed orders will tackle many of these issues. Firstly dog owners will be required to keep their dogs on a lead while using all shared use pathways and in Council car parks; which tends to be the main area of complaint. Dog owners are still required to keep their dogs under control when being exercised in the green spaces and where they fail to do this an authorised officer can request the owner/dog walker to put their dog on a lead or be issued with a fixed penalty notice or taken to court. It is important that Council balances the risks posed by dogs to the rights of dog owners/walkers to exercise their dog.
Where there is an Order, is it an offence not to follow it?
Anyone who doesn’t follow an Order can get an £80 Fixed Penalty Notice or be taken to court where the maximum fine is £1000.