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Anna McMorrin MP - Public Spaces Protection Order: Dog Controls

October 22, 2018

My official submission to the consultation:

 

Dear Cllr Bradbury,

Re: Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) – Dog Controls

Many people have contacted me raising concerns regarding the Council’s recent proposals to implement a PSPO to tackle what the Council considers a growing concern across Cardiff in relation to dogs, specifically dog fouling.

I recently spent some time talking to dog owners, sports pitch users and their families, discussing these proposals and the impact it would have. This consultation has understandably evoked strong opinions from all, especially those impacted by the actions of the small number of irresponsible dog owners. I intend to summarise the concerns of my constituents to be considered as part of the consultation process and I hope that the Council will arrive at a solution that enables all users to share public facilities in a mutually beneficial way.

Although I am not averse to strengthening measures to tackling the persistent issue of dog faeces in public places, I do not believe that implementing a blanket restriction on our public green spaces is the best approach to tackling the issue of dog fouling. A blanket restriction will disproportionately penalise responsible dog owners who may continue their behaviour, irrespective of where they are walking their dog. Rather, the Council should look to strengthening enforcement action against the minority of irresponsible dog owners, ensuring that those wanting to use the parks for whatever purposes are free to do so.

Inadequate Alternatives

Cardiff has a number of great parks that the community can make use of. Many of these are non-enclosed sport pitches in common multi-use spaces and living in an urban environment in the capital city, these parks are inevitably popular with many different community groups. 

When talking to local residents in Cardiff North recently, we discussed the issue of many of the public green spaces also being marked sports pitches and residents raised concerns about the lack of adequate alternatives in the area. For e.g. in Hailey park, the majority of the fields are marked pitches and the green spaces that aren’t, including the nearby meadows, can often be very waterlogged and so dog walkers are unable to walk their dogs there. We must therefore ensure that dog walkers have access to our public green spaces as in many areas, there aren’t adequate alternatives.


Impact of restricting access

Many constituents have expressed their concerns that the apparent blanket restrictions of public green spaces would hamper their quality of life, as well as their ability to effectively exercise their dogs.

As a society, we are striving to be healthier both physically and mentally and so many people walk their dogs in their local parks. If people are unable to utilise the marked pitches in close proximity to them and they are forced to find alternatives (perhaps a car drive away) then this could become a barrier to achieving a more active lifestyle and reduce the owner’s ability to sufficiently exercise their pet.

Similarly, the elderly or disabled people may not have access to cars and find it particularly difficult to walk their dogs further afield in unmarked locations. As a result, these restrictions could have a detrimental impact, not just on dog walkers, but also on the dogs who, under the Animal Welfare Act, are entitled to ‘suitable exercise’.

Impact on Sports Clubs

I am acutely aware of the impact of irresponsible dog owners failing to clean up after their dog can have on sports clubs and the pressures club volunteers face. Many volunteers of sports clubs in Cardiff North have been in touch to express their strong concerns about the community resistance to the PSPO. 

However, many people feel that utilising targeted enforcement strategies, for e.g. fines for dog fouling, is a much fairer and more proportionate reaction to the issue and one which is likely to have the best impact. These proposals risk disproportionately impacting a particular community group over another, which might exacerbate conflicts rather than effectively tackle the issue at hand. Stronger enforcement action and more public bins which are emptied more regularly to further support dog walkers could be a more viable solution.

Enforcing Current Laws

Legislation is only as effective as its implementation. Although I welcome increasing penalties and giving greater enforcement powers to officers to act as further deterrents, it is essential that enforcement strategies are looked at as opposed to blanket restrictions.

Quality of the Consultation Process

Many of my constituents have raised concerns regarding the clarity of the consultation process and the lack of publicity surrounding it.

On the Council’s website, it states that the PSPO would prohibit ‘dog fouling in all public places owned and/or maintained by the Council’. Many people have expressed concerns that it is unclear as to whether the Council proposes to enforce dog owners are required to pick up after their dog, or whether the PSPO is to make it illegal for a dog to foul on any Council owned/ maintained property, irrespective of whether it is cleaned up. Whilst everybody I have spoken to agrees that all dog owners should pick up after their dogs, the complete prohibition of dog fouling on Council property is untenable.

Many people have also expressed their concerns to me that the consultation process would inevitably disproportionately affect a particular community group, and this has inevitably evoked strong opinions in the community.

In addition, some of my constituents do not feel that consultation has been sufficiently advertised, meaning community groups may not actually be aware of the live consultation and the results could end up being skewed. I would be very grateful for clarification on how this has been advertised to ensure the consultation has reached as many as possible.


Conclusion

I appreciate that a number of educational interventions across the city haven’t been as successful as hoped and this issue still needs addressing. However, the Council has recognised in a recent Cabinet Meeting on this issue, that enforcement action could have been stronger over the last few years.

The dog owners and families I have spoken to have welcomed stronger enforcement action but fear that the proposals put forward will only marginalise responsible dog owners, whilst making very little difference to the irresponsible members of the community who do not clean up after their dog.

Moving forward, it should be a question of striking the right balance between sports clubs and dog owners/walkers using our public green spaces. I hope that due consideration will be given to my constituents’ concerns, so that we can arrive at a solution that will enable all users to share public facilities in a mutually beneficial way.

Yours Sincerely,

Anna McMorrin MP for Cardiff North