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.
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.
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 kept under control at all times i.e., a dog must be obedient and respond to the dog walker's commands.
A notable exception is Brooke Park; dogs are required to be kept on a lead at all times throughout the park as this is an ornamental park.
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.
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.
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.
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 a person visits a cemetery with their dog on a lead and always cleans up after their dog that there should be no issues.
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, such as Council owned children’s play areas, football pitches, multi-use games areas (MUGAs), artificial pitches, bowling greens and tennis courts. 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 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.
What is meant by a ‘Direction Order’?
Dogs can be exercised off lead in parks when not being walked on a shared use pathway provided, they are kept under control at all times. 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 enables an authorised council officer who observes a dog not under sufficient control to tell the person in charge of the dog to put it on a lead. It is hoped that all users, including walkers of well-controlled dogs, welcome this facility to address uncontrolled dog behaviour as it is happening.
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. A person in charge of a dog is guilty of an offence if at any time they do not comply with a direction given by a Council authorised officer to put and keep their dog on a lead (no more than 1.8 metres/6 feet in length).
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 as under control if the owner remains aware of where the dog is, what is doing, and can call it to heel and have the dog return immediately.
What is a public place for the purpose of On Lead by Direction Orders?
A public place is 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.
When will an Authorised Officers direct you to put your dog on a lead?
If your dog is observed causing a nuisance or behaving violently towards people, other dogs or animals an authorised officer will request you to keep it under control by leashing it. The Order enables an enforcement officer to address uncontrolled dog behaviour as it is happening.
How are the orders enforced?
The Orders are 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.
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. The fixed penalty notice for dog fouling has now been increased to £100.
Are there maps showing what rules apply where?
Although we believe that the descriptions of the types of lands where controls apply are fairly easy to understand Council has created an on-line map with colour coding as well as new signage.
Dogs must be on leads while on all shared use pathways: in our parks and along listed popular walkways
Dogs are excluded from all Council owned:
• Leisure centres
• Children’s play parks/ areas; whether fenced or not
• Football fields and MUGA pitches
• Tennis courts, Bowling greens, Pitch and tracks
It also excludes dogs from Brandywell Stadium & Showgrounds (except greyhounds in the racing stadium); and St Columbs stadium pitch and track
Dogs must be on Leads throughout all cemeteries, Brooke Park, land around Council Leisure Centres and Community Centres; including associated parking
The Fouling of land by Dogs and The Dogs on Lead by Direction Dog Control Orders apply to the entire Council area open to the air which the public are entitled or permitted to with or without payment
Whilst Council will do its best to educate everyone involved, the onus is on dog walkers to familiarise themselves with the Dog Control Orders when exercising their dog.
- Dogs must be kept on a 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.
- Dogs are not allowed in children’s play areas, football pitches, MUGAs, tennis courts and bowling greens.
- Dog walkers will be required to put their dog on a lead if it is deemed to be not under control.
- Dog walkers must clean up after their dog.
A Responsible Dog Ownership booklet is currently being developed which will include the dog controls and QR code to access the online map.