I’ve celebrated the arrival prematurely on at least a couple of occasions before, but, finally Wandsworth’s dog control orders have come into effect.
The delays ranged from misunderstandings (many people at first thought we were banning dogs from all parks) which caused a re-consultation, to technicalities (the cold weather meant the signs we need to display wouldn’t stick). But after lots of consultation and plenty of sticky signs staying stuck the orders came into force today.
As if to celebrate one my neighbours on the Shaftesbury Park Estate appears to have used the weekend to celebrate their dog’s last days of faecal freedom on the stretch of road on which I live – although that’s not unusual as the area has long had a problem with dog fouling.
Of course, rules alone do not solve problems, otherwise there would be no crime or anti-social behaviour. However, it does give the council’s dog unit (the country’s biggest) a much bigger set of tools to deal with dog related problems.
I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions about this blog but perhaps I should have made one to avoid posting about any councillor’s favourite topic: dog fouling.
Up and down the country it’s one of those issues that has become a cliche in for local government. But it’s become a cliche because it is a real problem in some areas. Personally the problem has taken on a whole new dimension now I occasionally push a pram and have to navigate four wheels and two feet through the Shaftesbury Park Estate.
And the problem hasn’t really gone away on the Shaftesbury Park Estate (or elsewhere, I imagine). In the area immediately around my house it seems dog owners have become a little more considerate, but only to the extent of dragging their dog to a tree base or gutter.
But while most people find that a bit distasteful it was perfectly legal. Indeed, I remember the old signs that – rather than telling people to clear up – merely advised people to “kerb” their dog.
But all that should be coming to an end. The council’s Dog Control Orders come into force this month, and will make it an offence not to clean up after your dog.
The Orders have been a long time coming, in part because of some mis-reporting in the Evening Standard that suggested we were going to try and ban dogs from all our parks (instead we are banning them from sections, like children’s play areas or sports facilities) but now they are finally here we can, hopefully, start dealing with irresponsible dog owners who don’t clean up after their dogs.
If you have any information, or are concerned about a particular area, you can contact the council’s dog control team on 020 8871 7606 (or see wandsworth.gov.uk/dogs) or contact me and I’ll be happy to pass the information on.
The council’s consultation on dog control orders ends tomorrow, so the news that two other councils, Lambeth and Southwark, are seeking to emulate the Wandsworth approach to dog-chipping is timely.
The dog control order consultation was extended following some rather misleading coverage in the press – I know of at least one campaign that was started under the misunderstanding dogs were going to be banned from Battersea Park (in fact they are just banned from children’s play areas and the sports facilities, places they wouldn’t be walked anyway). I have stated before that while I instinctively dislike additional regulation, the actions of a minority of irresponsible dog owners have made it necessary.
A few months ago I wrote about dog fouling on the Shaftesbury Park Estate. The council’s dog control unit patrolled the area – in and out of uniform – but unfortunately achieved little, certainly if judged by the pavements near my house this morning. While they did speak with some dog owners, none were caught doing anything we can take action over because, bizarrely, allowing your dog to foul the gutter or around a tree base is absolutely fine. There is no need to pick up afterwards.
Likewise (and many are surprised to hear this) they have no powers to instruct dog owners to put their dogs on a leash on the public highway. I know many, especially those with young children, feel uneasy when they see dogs of all breeds, on the streets and not under the direct and immediate control of their owner.
The council’s proposals are, I think, a reasonable and proportionate response to the fears and issues around irresponsible dog-ownership. If you agree, I’d encourage you to go to respond to the council’s consultation, you can find out more at the council’s dog control consultation page.
I’m going to resist using lines like “taking the next step in the dog mess issue” and instead be fairly dull and straight-forward about this one.
The council are currently consulting on introducing dog control orders to various parts of Wandsworth. These orders will add further conditions and controls on dog ownership in the borough and give the council a little more power to deal with problem dog owners.
Many people will be surprised that the rules don’t already exist. For example, one suggested rule is that dogs should always be on the lead on the public highway. At the moment dogs need to be under control, but this does not necessarily mean on a leash. Another will make it an offence for a dog to foul the road. While it’s already an offence to let a dog foul the pavement, it’s legally (though I would say not morally) absolutely fine to drag the dog to the gutter and then just walk away once its finished.
I think it’s a shame these are necessary. I instinctively dislike anything that introduces more regulation, and think it’s a shame we have come to the stage that we need to introduce rules that affect all dogs owners when the vast majority have never caused a problem of any sort with their dog.
Of course you might disagree with all or some of the proposed rules and that’s the point of consultation. The council’s website provides full details of the rules and how you can comment. And I’d be interested in hearing your views via the comments.