Go easy on dog owners, says RSPCA

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THE RSPCA has urged Calderdale Council to use dog-control orders “cautiously” and help to educate owners.

The council plans to ban dogs from playgrounds, sports fields and ornamental gardens and to extend rules making owners responsible for cleaning up after their pets.

But a spokesman for the animal charity said: “Where dogs are excluded from open spaces or restricted, it is essential that local authorities ensure other open spaces in close proximity remain accessible to dogs on and off leads, to allow owners to fulfil their responsibilities.”

According to Kath Airey, a trustee of Halifax and Huddersfield branch of the RSPCA, dogs enjoy socialising and playing, and it is important that they are able to express normal behaviour off the lead.

“It is imperative that control orders are used sparingly and in a manner that is proportionate to the problem.”

She added: “It is important for a local authority to promote responsible dog ownership by encouraging training, proper care, microchipping and neutering, as well as ensuring owners clean up after their dogs.

“Our society sees this as a better means of tackling the problem of dog control in the long-term than issuing orders which could prove a strain on resources, with regard to the policing and enforcement, particularly if they are widely applied.”

According to the RSPCA, control orders should not become a blanket power that punishes the responsible majority of owners in an effort to tackle problems created by an irresponsible few.

The council has spent weeks canvassing public opinion on the proposed orders and has promised to take account of the very many letters on the subject published by the Courier.

Head of housing and environment, Mark Thompson said the council was searching for a constructive balance between the needs of dog owners to exercise their pets and the preservation of a clean and healthy environment.

Last year the council received nearly 700 complaints about dog fouling and an average of one a week in relation to dangerous dogs.

As well as excluding dogs from certain areas, the council wants to give powers to authorised staff to order owners to put their pets on a lead if they are causing a nuisance.

The penalty in relation to any offence for any Dog Control Order is, on summary conviction, a fine of up to £1,000.

But they are more likely to be asked to pay a fixed penalty of between £50 and £80.