Dogs on lead rule. Is this draconian or AIBU?

(14 Posts)
NotSureIfIABU Tue 19-Aug-14 22:37:14

This is a first world problem and not posted with the intention of antagonising so please go easy on me.

Our little village has been gifted a piece of woodland for community use. I believe that it's now owned by the parish council. It's relevant to add that the woodland is small and there's no area where you can't see anyone coming ahead, behind or to either side. Any non dog walking users are generally to be found right at the entry to it, sitting at picnic tables with a cola though of course they might choose to go further in as is their right.

At first it was a "free for the use of all" thing. You can picnic, play, there even have barbecues. Then there was a dog incident. A villager was walking his 2 dogs on lead when an off-lead dog ran at his and caused a bit of a fight. There was no damage done but understandably the owner of the on lead dogs was a bit shaken.

The parish council have decided that now all dogs must be on leads in the woods. To be fair it's not really a big deal because we're in the country and have other walking areas but it's ruffled his, my and other owners' feathers a bit. The dog owners all know each other and the local dogs' personalities. It's not an area which attracts people from outside the village as it's new and unknown to them and it's so small that it's not somewhere non villagers would make an effort to visit even if they did know about it. We behave responsibly, we pick up poo, we lead up when we see oncoming DC/dogs/runners/walkers and are generally respectful of our community. We feel that we're savvy enough not to let this happen again. The owner of the dog which went for the on-leads ones is known and liked in the village. She's mortified and won't be allowing herdog off lead near others again.

The village dog owners feel a bit picked on. It hasn't helped that the incident got posted on the village Facebook group and we got the predictable 'it could have been a child!' remarks from non dog owners which we feel that the parish council took as gospel.

Our argument is that teens have started unauthorised bonfires in the woods but teens aren't subjected to any rules. Children have thrown litter and behaved in other unacceptable ways but there are no 'children must be accompanied by adults' signs and that's as it should be because we all know that we can't punish the majority for the acts of the minority. There's evidence of pheasant shooting in the woods but no rules preventing the use of firearms.

Are we being unreasonable to politely suggest to the parish council that their approach is a bit draconian being on the strength of one relatively minor albeit regrettable dog incident (to the best of our knowledge there's been no other and I'm fairly confident that this is the case, having a lot of contact with a far larger than average number of villagers through my work and community interests).

The owner of the 2 on lead dogs (both dog friendly and well behaved) is of the opinion that the parish council have no powers in law above those that any individual has (I don't know if this is true or not?) and that they can only threaten a civil case for trespass if he walks his dogs in the woods off lead, calling them to heel and leading up if he sees anyone else around so he wants to take that line and wait for the parish to argue.

I'm of the view that we should approach the parish council and appeal to their sense of reason. I can see his point though I don't intend to follow his suggestion.

What do you think?

AlpacaLypse Tue 19-Aug-14 22:39:16

placemark for a considered opinion later.

SpicyBear Tue 19-Aug-14 22:43:15

I'm fairly sure a parish council has powers to make a dog control order. If such an order has been made they can issue hefty fines got a breach so your neighbour should confirm this.

ThatBloodyWoman Tue 19-Aug-14 22:45:54

Oh a lot to think about!

I see all the various points.

I think there's room for further discussion on what activities should be allowed and disallowed.

Coukd you suggest a public meeting?

NotSureIfIABU Tue 19-Aug-14 22:52:24

I don't really know how it works ThatBloodyWoman but I can't see wh it couldn't be raised at the next parish meeting, even if that's an email request that they discuss and consider the differing opinions. That's a good suggestion.

SpicyBear, I thought that only district or city councils had the power to use legislation like dog control orders but I'm willing to be told I'm wrong. I honestly no idea what sort of powers a parish council has. confused

According to the .gov website, a parish council definitely has the power to introduce a dog control order. I think a meeting would be a better way to go about things.

NotSureIfIABU Tue 19-Aug-14 23:21:48

Thanks for the info fan. I'll tell the owner of the 2 dogs. I agree with you that a meeting is the way forward if I/we aren't being unrealistic or unreasonable to raise the issue at all. I'm still not sure if we should do that or if we should just contain our miffedness and button it.

I'd feel miffed in the circumstances too.

ThatBloodyWoman Tue 19-Aug-14 23:43:37

I think its perfectly in order to ask to open discussion on it.

I would try not to let your miffedness be too obvious though.

MrsGWay Tue 19-Aug-14 23:54:02

You say
The dog owners all know each other and the local dogs' personalities.
but also seem surprised that an incident took place! So either you do know all the dogs or you don't, which is it?

Parish Councils DO have the power to enforce Clean Neighbourhoods Act which covers Dog Control Orders for fouling and onlead areas (and dog bans).

The question at a practical level is this - once they've made the order, how will they enforce it? Do they have community wardens or any enforcement officers? Have local PCSOs been given powers to enforce?

This is the DEFRA guidance on DCOs - here. It makes the point that an authority should be able to show that a DCO is necessary and proportionate. I know that the Kennel Club have run many anti-DCO campaigns - there may be a newsletter/website for this.

NotSureIfIABU Wed 20-Aug-14 13:00:20

MrsGWay, I don't know how I've given the impression that I'm surprised. I'm neither surprised nor un-surprised, just accepting of the fact that it's happened and questioning if the parish council's response is proportionate.

ScuttleButter thank you. That's excellent advice and information.

We have no community wardens, no enforcement officers and the only time we see a police officer of any description is when there's a specific reason. I think one may have driven through the village in 1976 in response to a complaint about a lad scrumping an apple but that's about the strength of police presence here! grin

It seems that we may be in a position to politely point out that the dogs on lead demand is unfair on the majority, a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut and unenforceable in practical terms and to ask the parish council to reconsider.

I hope this is so and not just for those of us who feel a bit picked on. I don't think it does any harm to challenge OTT reactions to dogs and their owners on any level.

Thanks.

mrslaughan Thu 21-Aug-14 22:52:24

I would just be very careful about the way you go about it.....people on things like parish councils, often don't like to feel challenged, and often at the root of these things, is one person who feels strongly about this (dogs being on lead) , and has been waiting for a reason to swing everyone around to their way of thinking.

Being, reasonable, charming, calm and non confrontational I think is really important.

I would avoid a village meeting about it, that invites everyone's opinion and you'll have the "it could have been a child " hysteria brought up. But surely you can attend the parish council meetings - is there an opportunity at those to ask about this then?

Shia Fri 22-Aug-14 10:26:49

This is the problem, a minority spoil it for the majority.

Back in Essex there used to be a big boating lake for everyone to swim in and use. It was like that for many years until some idiot got pissed up and decided to go for a swim on his own at night and he drowned.

His widow, whilst understandably upset campaigned about it and the council cordonde it all off and turned it into a nature reserve which whilst lovely, meant that no one could swim or go boating anymore as they banned it!

Same principle here I'm afraid.

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