Saturday 20 July 2019

Protest says no to new council bye-law on dogs

Dog owners protest against new 'off-leash' areas in public parks

John Manning

The Fingal Dog Owners Group says they will settle only for the complete reversal of park bye-laws that are seeing dog owners forced into fenced off areas if they want to let their dogs off the leash.

John O'Callaghan from the Fingal Dog Owners Group says that the new bye-laws were justified by the council on the back of reports of dogs attacking other park users when they are off-leash.

But he said when the group challenged the council to show when and where these incidents took place, via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the report showed no dog attacks reported in the county's public parks during the period covered by the FOI request.

He said that if there was no reported attacks in the public parks then the decision on the bye-laws was made based on inaccurate information and leaves the new bye-laws 'flawed' and 'invalid', according to the group.

He criticised councillors for not seeking the same information before voting on the issue.

The first park to see fencing going up to separate an off-leash area has been the Ward River Valley Park and Mr O'Callaghan was critical of suggestions made a previous council meeting that the group were in favour of simply moving the off-leash areas within the park.

He said they would settle for no less than a 'complete reversal' of the bye-laws.

He said there was 'no reason' to change the previous bye-laws and the council should immediately revert to those.

The Fingal Dog Owners Group has been in existence for only two months but has grown to over 1,500 members.

A sizeable chunk of those turned out in Malahide at the weekend with their dogs to protest the new bye-laws.

The protesters marched from the centre of Malahide Village to Malahide Castle and Demesne which is one of the large regional parks earmarked for an off-leash area.

John says the quick growth of the group is an indicator of the 'outrage of dog walkers' who regularly use Fingal's parks to exercise their dogs off the leash.

He said that dog walkers are the largest user group' in Fingal's network of public parks and their voices needed to be heard on this issue.

The council argues that it has to balance the needs of many park users and the off-leas areas are an attempt to do that. It said it was due to meet with the Fingal Dog Owners Group again, later this month and hear their views on the issue but it appears that nothing short of a full reversal of the bye-laws will suffice for the group.

Until then, there are sure to be repeats of this weekend's protests.

Fingal Independent