Spencer Drury responds to Consultation on new Dog Control Orders

From Spencer Drury, PPC for Greenwich & Woolwich

This weekend Greenwich and Woolwich Parliamentary Candidate Councillor Spencer Drury responded to Greenwich Council’s consultation on introducing new dog control orders. These orders will fine people who allow their dogs to foul the borough but fail to clean up after them and will require all dogs to be on a lead except in certain specified places.
Spencer said “I laid out my views in the letter to the Council which is shown below, however, I would urge all residents to respond as hopefully the Council will listen to their views to ensure that these control orders are workable and improve the quality of life in the borough.”
“From a personal point of view I quite agree with the fines for owners failing to clean up after their dogs however, I’m not convinced that keeping dogs on leads is the same as keeping dogs under control which is the real issue currently.”
Spencer’s letter reads:
“Dear Sir/Madam,
RE:      Response to Dog Control Orders Public Consultation
I write in response to the consultation on dog control orders. I write as a borough resident and ward Councillor, but the views expressed in this letter do not seek to represent the views of the Conservative Group in Greenwich, which may choose to take a different line if this issue should come to full Council. I should also indicate that I am a dog owner.
Before I comment, may I suggest that any report on dogs in the borough is accompanied by a clear set of statistics showing how many people have been attacked by dogs over the last few years and of these attacks how many occurred while the dogs were in the care of a dog walker?
While I am aware that there are five offences detailed in the consultation document, I do not intend to address my comments in the order of the offences, but in relation to issues which dog owners and non-dog owners may need to consider in the future. 
I am in complete agreement with the requirement that dog faeces should be immediately removed by owners/walkers. Leaving faeces across any public space is unpleasant and if anything I would wish to increase the fine on people who do not clear up after their dogs. My main concern in this area is that I am not convinced that it will be possible to enforce this, as there is not the manpower among PCSOs or park keepers to ensure that all culprits will be punished. What guarantees will Cabinet seek or put in place to ensure that enforcement is adequate to ensure these are not just more empty words?
On the other hand I think the requirement to keep dogs on a lead in all areas except those which the Council has indicated is unenforceable and should be abandoned. It seems to me that it will be almost impossible to ensure everyone knows exactly where the areas are that you are allowed to have dogs off a lead and as the legislation specifically states that “having a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with an order” is a defence, I would have thought that not having seen a sign would allow almost every person caught under this proposal to escape without a fine. Similarly, as the Highway Code (and I think the Road Traffic Act) already states:
“Dogs. Do not let a dog out on the road on its own. Keep it on a short lead when walking on the pavement, road or path shared with cyclists or horse riders.”
I cannot understand why the Council does not simply enforce this provision rather than worrying about introducing another one. 
I relation to this provision, there is also a failure to define what is meant by a lead. The long, extendable leads which many dog owners now mean that a dog on a lead may have just as much freedom as one off of a lead. Similarly, I am informed that in the United States many people now have short pieces of leather attached to a dogs collar which they claim are a lead but allow no control over the dogs. As a result, can I suggest that the Cabinet rejects this provision and focuses instead on dogs that are out of control.
I feel that proposals to introduce Dog Control Orders are missing the point to some extent. The issue now and for the future is the increasing number of irresponsible owners of dogs and the rise in illegal dog-fighting. I note reports that reported cases of dog fighting have risen by 1,000% in the last three years in the West Midlands and anecdotally I understand there has been a substantial increase in this sort of activity in London too. Surely the Council should use the focus on dogs to try and do something to address this more serious problem? Maybe some sort of licensing scheme or a clear reporting structure for the public if they believe that someone in their community is keeping a dangerous dog. 
I would urge the Council to consdier whether this consultation is a genuine attempt to address the problems faced by the vast majority of responsible dog owners or a cheap publicity stunt aimed at looking like you are doing something, but actually not achieving anything very meaningful. As the owner of a lovely Staffordshire Bull Terrier, I live in fear that another piece of ridiculous legislation like the Dangerous Dogs Act will be introduced, banning breeds of dog (like mine) for no better reason than no one has tried to think about how to stop irresonsible owners training their dogs to fight or failing to control their dogs. 
Yours sincerely,
Spencer Drury
Cllr for Eltham North”
Members of the public wishing to respond to the consultation or find out more details at http://www.greenwich.gov.uk/Greenwich/News/HomepageNews/consultation-Dog-Control-Orders.htm.
Or prior to 15th June 2009 write to:
Dog Control (Public Consultation)
Abbey Wood Neighbourhood Office
140 Eynsham Drive
Abbey Wood
London SE2 9PT