Campaigners accuse council of '˜snubbing' ratepayers over dog control plans

Campaigners fighting the introduction of proposed new Dog Control Orders have accused the council of 'snubbing' ratepayers who are against the draft legislation.

Disgruntled dog walkers in Wallace Park, Lisburn on Sunday, March 4 demonstrating their opposition to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council's proposed Dog Control Orders 2018. Photo by Simon Graham Photography

The ‘Lisburn is Barking Mad’ campaign group handed over a petition signed by more than 1,000 people opposed to the proposed changes, which could see pet owners no longer allowed to exercise their dogs off-lead on the football pitches in Wallace Park between September and April.

The petition was handed over to the local authority on March 15 - the initial deadline for responses on the draft Dog Control Orders.

However, last week the council revealed that, “following feedback received from interested parties”, the public consultation period has been extended until April 20.

That move has angered the campaigners, who have accused the local authority of “snubbing 1,098 ratepayers and voters” - a claim the council denies.

The disgruntled dog owners have also criticised the council after it turned down a request from the group that a representative be allowed to put their case to a meeting of the Environmental Services Committee.

“Campaigners have the considered view that in extending the consultation period the council are trying to get more responses in support of their plans,” a ‘Lisburn is Barking Mad’ spokesperson claimed.

“It is imperative that in the interest of balance, fair play and accuracy the views of 1,098 ratepayers and voters be heard and form part of the consultation exercise and the subsequent follow-up report.

“As dog walkers and major stakeholders in this process it is only right and proper that we are heard before the consultation period ends and that our views are reflected in the report.”

While the move to ban dogs from the pitches in Wallace Park is supported by some, the campaigners claim the council’s proposals discriminate against responsible pet owners.

Their petition on the site, which is still open, has already been signed by more than 470 people.

Meanwhile, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council has denied suggestions that it has extended the deadline for responses on the proposed new Dog Control Orders in a bid to garner more support for its plans.

Refuting claims that it has “snubbed” more than 1,000 people who have signed a petition opposing the draft legislation, the local authority said it had extended the public consultation period until April 20 “after it was informed that some residents were not aware it had commenced,” despite it having been “widely advertised and promoted” across the council area.

“In light of this, it was willing to provide another four weeks to allow as many individuals as possible, with an interest in this area, the opportunity to provide responses and to feed in to this consultation with opinions,” a spokesperson said.

“All responses and feedback are date stamped on receipt. The council will review all responses received after the consultation period has ended and will take them into account before making any further decisions on the Dog Control Orders. Council will ensure that any decisions will be communicated to the public,” she added.

Responding to criticism of the ruling not to let a ‘Lisburn is Barking Mad’ campaigner address the Environmental Services Committee, the spokesperson said “elected members made the decision that given the process of consultation had not concluded that her request be declined at this stage.”

“The council appreciates that this is a subject that has drawn very strong opinions and views. The council’s aim is to provide facilities and amenities for everyone,” she added.

For full details of the draft Dog Control Orders and how to have your say, log on to the council’s website.