I am not sure if anyone has been following the story that dogs have been banned from the courtyard at Hylands Park, with a ‘dog friendly’ area being put up elsewhere in the park so owners can get a drink after their walk.
Recently I came across this link (many thanks to Karen Chilvers who provided some of the links) which describes the incident that allegedly precipitated the ban. While I can’t know how accurate the story is, or if is was that one incident that caused it, it does give me pause for thought. Councillor Nicollette Chambers acknowledges an incident did result in police being called.
The decision was made because there have been a number of incidents, for example one where the police had to be called.
I understand that three waitresses were bitten, some dogs howl, the list is endless.
(Email conversation can be found here). Briefly, the alleged incident involved a dog (breed and size unknown, but even a small dog could drag a chair if in a panic) tied to a chair, left unattended, which ran off with the chair still attached and collided with another park user.
The Dangerous Dogs Act is very clear. It is an offence for a dog to cause harm to a person (and they want to make the DDA even stronger!), or even to put a person in fear they will be harmed. So your dog doesn’t even have to be aggressive for it to fall foul of this awful law. A friendly dog could jump up at someone, which could be an offense under the DDA. Knock them over, or put mud on their clothes, all illegal. Run up and bark at someone on a bike, who loses their balance and falls off, illegal. Or even just run up to ‘say hello’. If that person doesn’t like dogs (and only around 15% of the public like dogs enough to want to share their lives with a dog) the ‘wounded’ party is within their rights to phone the police. Ideally the owner of the dog would offer to or co-operate with any requests to make right any finanical losses (such as dry-cleaning, maybe the bike was damaged when it fell over etc). However trivial the incident may appear to outsiders, dogs can cause upset and worry to those who don’t like dogs. In fact I have heard dog owners say they only like their own dog and are still scared of all others.
Children in particular should always be protected from strange dogs. The child scared by the dog that steals an icecream out of its hand is the lawmaker of the future who may go on to support bans in public places, or ask for dogs to be on leads in areas where children also have access.
Never leave your dog tied up and left alone. I cannot think of any reason why this is ever a good idea – your dog could be stolen, teased by children, attacked by another dog, interfered with by strangers, or panic and make a lot of noise. If you are a lone dog walker, then try to find areas where you can buy food or drinks with your dog – some cafes will have a hatch or even a window they could pass drinks from. Many of us lone dog walkers get very chatty with other dog walkers in the park, so maybe ask one to hold your dog if you need to go to the loo. Take your own drinks so you can sit with your dog and still enjoy refreshements after your walk.
Our training classes are designed to teach your dog how to live in a society where their owners are in a minority. We teach dogs to accept being tethered to chairs, but the owner is expected to stay with them. We teach owners about the laws relating to dogs and how they might apply to them, as well as important training such as if you stop to talk to someone, your dog will wait with you quietly, and not jump all over them, they will walk nicely on a lead, and come back when called when off the lead.We try to make dogs a polite member of society, so things like this don’t happen.
We owe it to our dogs to train them correctly so they remain welcome in our public and open spaces.
There is a petition to reverse the ban - and a facebook group. More information on the Dangerous Dogs Act from the Blue Cross.