Kennel Club accuses councils of 'waging war' on dogs in parks

Dogs are increasingly unwelcome in public parks and open spaces with dog owners being unfairly penalised or even criminalised according to a new report released by The Kennel Club.

Report says dog walkers are being unfairly penalised. Image: Flickr/Creative Commons/Photo Monkey
Report says dog walkers are being unfairly penalised. Image: Flickr/Creative Commons/Photo Monkey

The club, the UK’s largest dog welfare organisation, said that overly restrictive Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) have led to dogs being banned from more than 2,200 public spaces in England and Wales and are only allowed in 1,100 public spaces on leads.

It has called on the Home Office to issue improved guidance to local authorities regarding PSPOs and for appropriate exemptions for assistance dog users. The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 included requirements that a registered blind person, a deaf person using a hearing dog and those with a disability who relied on an assistance dog, could not be subject to a dog exclusion order. Those whose disability affects their ability to pick up after their dog should also be exempted from dog fouling orders, but the Kennel Club is concerned this guidance is not being followed.

Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko said: "Some local authorities seem to be waging a war on dogs and their owners and singling them out from the rest of the population with no real reason for doing so. Those involved in proposing dog restrictions of course have to take into consideration all users of public spaces, not just those with dogs, but when they seem to be actively trying to criminalise dog owners simply for wanting to give their pets proper exercise it greatly concerns us which is why it is important to oppose unnecessary restrictions and encourage a more evidence based approach."

She said the Kennel Club recognises that sometime PSPOs are necessary. The orders, introduced under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, gave power to local authorities to ban dogs from public areas, such as parks and beaches, or to require dog owners to keep their dogs on leads at all times in these areas.

Dog owners, however, have a legal requirement under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to provide them with ‘suitable exercise’, which means regular opportunities to walk and run off lead.  The Kennel Club is concerned that responsible dog owners trying to give their pets the exercise they need may find it increasingly difficult to find places to do so.

PCSOs are expected to increase next year, as all local authorities in England and Wales must replace existing Dog Control Orders (introduced under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005) with PSPOs by 20 October 2017.

There are around 8.5 million dogs in the UK and an estimated one in four households owns a dog.

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