Dog walkers in Dublin's southside claim they are being "harassed" by dog wardens who are issuing hefty fines to dog owners who don't have their pets on a leash.
Liz Neligan from Monkstown is a member of the Dogs Unleashed group which is protesting against the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown bye-laws 2009, which dictate that dog owners keep their dogs on a leash while walking on a beach.
Locals have been fined €150 while walking their dogs on Killiney beach as early as 7am.
Liz told the Herald: "It started in the middle of March when the council had wardens down on all of the beaches in Dun Laoghaire/Rath-down to tell owners that dogs had to be on a leash at all times on the beaches and all parks in the county, with a few exceptions.
"An 86-year-old man was on the beach on a blustery morning at 7am with his 15-year-old dog, who is a therapy dog, and the pair of them were shuffling up off the beach, when he was fined €150 for his dog being off the leash.
"But we're saying it's all about the dog being under control, not on a leash. The thing is, dog walkers are people who walk the beaches all year round, during summer or winter, snow or sun or rain."
Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council is proposing to introduce a dog management strategy as part of their Open Space Strategy 2011-2015.
A council spokesman said a number of off-leash areas were being considered and to date four areas have been introduced in public parks at Marlay, Cabinteely, Shanganagh and Deerpark. "A limited area has been designated 'off-leash' on Killiney Beach on a trial basis. If this 'off-leash' designation is successful and does not draw significant opposition or complaint from beach users, such designations could be extended and trialled in other beach locations."
But Liz said: "Killiney beach is now deserted because people have been harassed. I know people who've been fined, and it's a huge fine, and it's for enjoying nature and being out for a walk with your dog even though it's under control. If I tell my shih tzu to stay, she'll say.
"Dogs will be allowed to be unleashed in very small areas, with just a patch of green grass which will become like quagmires with increased usage in our type of weather."