Dog ban zones back on the agenda for council

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Mid and East Antrim councillors have agreed to revisit controversial proposals on dog exclusion zones within the new borough area.

The local government authority will “reconsult” on draft legislation which would have banned canines from play parks and sports pitches in Carrickfergus.

In May of this year, feedback was requested on a series of draft dog control orders in an effort to align enforcement procedures across the council area.

The proposals looked at dog fouling; dogs on leads including on promenades, in cemeteries, on beaches, and in Carnfunnock Country Park, Larne and the exclusion of dogs from certain zones within Carnfunnock.

However, it was the Dogs Exclusion (Children’s Play Parks and Playing Fields) Order which caused the most concern.

If implemented, the order would have excluded canines from 27 public spaces across Carrickfergus.

Councillor John Stewart suggested the original list of proposed exclusion zones had been “overly comprehensive”. He added: “For every rule we have, we have to be able to enforce it; it’s about finding that balance.”

A public backlash over what some saw as “draconian” measures resulted in the withdrawal of the draft order.

At Monday night’s meeting of the Operational Committee, members agreed to proceed with the first five dog control orders following the consultation exercise.

The order on children’s parks and playing fields will be split into two parts, with children’s play parks to be reconsulted on.

Exclusion from playing fields will be discussed internally, with proposals brought back to the committee before reconsultation.

Meanwhile, amendments will be made to the draft order considering dogs on leads in Carnfunnock.

This would provide clarity on when pets could be walked without a restraint.

“We had discussions with [pet owners group] DogsNI and they had agreed to the first five orders,” said committee chairman, Cllr Andrew Wilson. “We will reconsult on the play parks and playing fields separately before they come back to the committee.”

During the meeting, members were provided with a report detailing feedback from the consultation exercise earlier this year. Approximately three quarters of responses on the parks and playing fields order were received before it was withdrawn from consultation, the report noted.

Those attending drop-in sessions in Carrickfergus were generally satisfied with the principle of the order, provided it did not apply to all of the areas listed.

Some 88 objectors specified that they had no objection to the order being applied to play parks but that they did not want other areas included.

Residents in agreement with the order raised the need for council to consider providing specific enclosed areas for dogs.

During the consultation period, approximately 250 email responses were received with regard to the draft orders.

Emails also contained comments from those who reside outside the borough but who had been informed of the proposals by social media and subsequently commented on the proposals. The drop-in clinics provided 286 completed feedback forms, with over half of these (146) from Carrickfergus respondents. The Ballymena sessions returned 58 forms with 93 from Larne.