SPECIAL REPORT: Ottery Dog ban debate let off the leash

TO BAN or not to ban, that is the question East Devon District Council will ask Ottery residents over proposed dog control measured in the town over the next month.

TO BAN or not to ban, that is the question East Devon District Council will ask Ottery residents over proposed dog control measured in the town over the next month.

A public consultation over whether to ban dogs from Winters Lane playing field and to restrict them to being kept on leads in the Land of Canaan began last week and will end on January 23. District council members will then decide on whether the proposals become a reality.

The issue has pitted the town council against a group of residents and the Herald looks at both sides of the argument.

Ottery St Mary Town Council: "We have a duty of care to the children of the town"

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CREATING safer, cleaner and more attractive playing areas for children is the motivation behind Ottery town council's desire to see both proposed dog control orders become a reality.

The council have backed plans following concerns over dogs running free and have requested dog control measures from as far back as 2002.

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Mayor Glyn Dobson said: "The council fully supports what Ottery Dogs are doing in the town, but all it does is highlight the problem Ottery has got. I believe they picked up 16 bags of dog mess in the Land of Canaan recently which is a playing area for children.

"As a council we feel we have a duty of care to the children of the town- unfortunately children and dogs do not mix.

There is a similar stance over Winters Lane. Cllr Dobson added: "The central issue is it's a children's playing field. Goal posts are there to attract children to play in the field and there is also a scouts hut. If dogs weren't around there then we would attract more children to the area."

"It is not just mess, dogs running around free in a field where children are playing is also part of our duty of care. As a council we are not prepared to take responsibility for that.

"A lot of people in the town don't think dogs should be there- but they don't make themselves heard while the protesters do.

"We hope to meet members of Ottery Dogs in the New Year and maybe we can come up with an alternative."

Ottery Dogs: 'Speak up now or don't complain when you can't walk your dog'

RESPONSIBLE ownership has been the proactive response to proposals by dog-owners who feel they are paying the price for a wider problem in the town.

Dog walkers, ranging from young mothers to the elderly, who use the Winters Lane field feel it is a recreational space for residents who would be losing a vital community asset should the ban be enforced. Original protestations have manifested themselves into the Ottery Dogs group, which has set its sights on tackling the dog-fouling problem all over Ottery. Member Melanie Turner said: "The safety of people and their animals, including health and wellbeing should be at the forefront of any arguments for opposing these restrictions.

"If the Town were to lose these areas it would have a major impact on many groups of people who are unable to regularly access other areas outside of the town centre. "We believe that it is totally unacceptable for the people in our town to find dog poo in the streets, public footpaths or anywhere else. "We want everybody to pick up their dog's poo, dispose of it properly and encourage everyone to do the same. We want dog owners to worm their dogs regularly and take every precaution possible to ensure that their dog poses no risk to anyone else." Ottery Dogs agrees with total dog bans in fenced off children's play areas in both the Land of Canaan and Winters Lane but thinks dog control enforcement elsewhere will not tackle the root problem. Mrs Turner added: "We have taken what we believe to be more effective measures to improve the situation to benefit all in our Town. We have actively involved the local police, dog warden and EDDC in our work to provide a safer, cleaner and more pleasant town for all. "To influence the consultation it is vital to understand that at present the only two options are a total dog ban or a 'dogs on leads' restriction, suggestions for alternative options must come from the people who use these areas, for example fenced off areas for specifically exercising dogs." Ottery Dogs has been backed by the Kennel Club and founder of the Safepets scheme. The group will be out and about for a third 'poop scoop' tomorrow (December 20) in the Land of Canaan from 10am.

The consultation response address is: Dog Control Consultation, Environmental Health Service, The Knowle, Sidmouth, EX10 8HL

Dog control orders can be viewed at: www.eastdevon.gov.uk/legal_and_member_services-dog_control_orders

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