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Dog walkers go into battle to continue to use beaches

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 20, 2012

  • St Ives, where councillors have voted for a complete dog ban on the town's main bathing beaches during summer

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The general public doesn't often feel sympathy for politicians – although occasionally, when they are faced with complexities like the ones thrown up by the case of Abu Qatada last week, we may share in their frustrations.

But anyone neutral might like to spare a thought for the hapless decision-maker who has to contemplate issuing a dog ban.

Excluding these pets from any public space is likely to create a minefield of emotion, but banning man's best friend from beaches is guaranteed to light a flame of reaction more certainly than any other edict short of a declaration of war.

The Westcountry saw an example of "dog versus sandcastle" earlier this month when St Ives councillors voted for a complete ban on canines on the town's main bathing beaches during the summer.

The meeting where the decision was made was packed and emotions were running high as opinions became more and more polarised.

One resident said: "These are the premier bathing beaches in the country. Seasonal exclusions ensure they are going to be as clean and safe as possible."

And in complete contrast Barbara Nolan, of the St Ives Dog Owners' Group, said after the meeting: "They didn't listen to the consultation. They've had a consultation and now they've ignored it."

Councillors voted to do away with rules that allowed dog walkers onto key bathing beaches before 8am and after 7pm in the summer. From May next year dogs will be banned from Porthmeor, Porthminster and Porthgwidden beaches for the duration of the main holiday season.

The St Ives ban joins an increasing number of dog exemption orders on beaches across this region – and beaches, as every reader will know, happen to be very popular places when it comes to going for a "walkies" with Bonzo, Bowser or Bingo – or whatever a seaside-loving dog's name happens to be.

Cornwall County Council says there are 51 beaches west of the Tamar where dogs are welcome all year round – and 41 which are open to them on a seasonal basis, from Easter to October.

"Beaches where dog bans apply are patrolled on a regular basis," a spokesman told the Western Morning News.

"Persons with dogs on the beach during the ban period will be issued with a fixed penalty notice for £80 and asked to remove their dog from the beach immediately."

As various beaches around Cornwall operate different types of ban according to the time of day or year, canine-lovers are able to glean specific and up-to-date information on the council's website.

Other local authorities with coastal zones in the Westcountry take differing lines.

A spokesman for North Devon Council (NDC) told the WMN: "We do not impose dog bans on any of our beaches or open spaces. NDC-owned beaches include Wildersmouth, Hele, Ilfracombe Harbour Beach, as well as Lee Bay, Woody Bay and Heddon's Mouth.

"However, most beaches in North Devon, for example, Woolacombe, Croyde, Instow and Putsborough, are privately owned, and therefore it is up to the owners whether they ban dogs.

"Dog owners would need to contact each private beach to find out what their situation is."

In the South Hams the district council has imposed a seasonal ban between May 1 and September 30 on South Sand at Salcombe and Mothwell Sand at Hope Cove – while Bigbury and Bantham have partial bans.

Private bans have been introduced by owners at Blackpool Sands, Mothecombe Beach, Wembury, Sandy Parlour and Challaborough.

And, of course, it's not just a matter of a contentious seaside decision being made by a council, or a sign going up at the entrance to a beach. As the spokesman for North Devon Council told us, even though there are no dog bans on NDC-owned beaches or open spaces, dog owners "still need to ensure they clean up after their pets".

"Anyone caught walking away from their dog's mess faces a fixed penalty of £75, which is reduced to £60 if they pay within 14 days. However, if the fine isn't paid, the owner can be taken to court and prosecuted."

It goes without saying that one of the main reasons for any dog ban is the general lack of toilet training which is simply part of nature when it comes to pets. The average two-year-old human is better prepared in the matter than most dogs of any age – and apart from being extremely unpleasant stuff, canine faeces can cause serious health problems.

Toxocariasis, which is spread from animals to humans via infected faeces, is a rare infection caused by roundworm parasites. And it often hits the news because it can cause partial blindness, especially in children.

However, the word "rare" must be emphasised. Information on the NHS Choices website states: "It is hard to estimate exactly how many cases of toxocariasis occur.... One researcher estimates that there are around 50-100 cases of the ocular form of the condition each year in the UK.

"However, many people have toxocara antibodies in their blood, which indicates that they have been exposed to the parasites."

But as long as there is an unwritten equation going on in people's minds that dog poo can equal blindness, it seems that canine lobbyists will have an uphill struggle when it comes to fighting bans.

You would expect the magisterial Kennel Club to take a sensible line on all this – and indeed it does. A spokesman said: "At the start of summer the Kennel Club launched a targeted responsible dog ownership campaign, in which we worked with local authorities to hold fun and informal community days to educate the public on responsible dog ownership.

"The Kennel Club sees these kind of events as being far more effective in tackling dog-related issues, through education, rather than implementing blanket bans for dogs – which really only have a negative effect on responsible owners – the minority of irresponsible owners are unlikely to pay attention to any dog control orders anyway."

So what is the Kennel Club's take on the contentious issue of dogs on beaches? I asked the organisation's secretary, Caroline Kisko.

She said: "Beaches are always very popular with dog walkers, as they provide open spaces for dogs to be exercised off the lead, and it is a shame when local authorities deem it necessary to implement dog bans in these areas. These bans are often in response to issues that can easily be dealt with in a different, more proactive, way – such as ensuring that enough dog waste bins are provided, and that dog owners are educated in the need to pick up.

"The Kennel Club believes that dogs and their owners should be allowed to make use of Britain's coast, so long as dogs are kept under effective control," added Ms Kisko.

"Government statistics have shown that as many as 50% of all walkers have dogs with them, which represents a huge proportion of society, making it important that this demographic has access to beaches.

"Dog owners in St Ives, so long as they are being responsible, should have as much right as other walkers to enjoy the beaches in the area.

"The Kennel Club campaigns for fair access for dog walkers across the country."

Mums and dads whose small children play in the sand may well disagree.

What do you think? We'd like to hear your thoughts on this issue. Please write to WMN Newsdesk, 17 Brest Road, Derriford, Plymouth, PL6 5AA, or email us about the issue at wmnnewsdesk@westernmorningnews.co.uk

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  • marjorie  |  November 21 2012, 12:24PM

    i live in bideford and every were you go the is dog poo every were i walk my kids to school every day and you can not walk down the streets any were with out it being all the way down i was all so walking to work one day throught the park and there was a lady there with a little white dog letting it do its poo in the sand pit she didnt evon pick it up and my 5 year old has all so been knoced over 4 times bby a dog witch has trued to get a stick out his hand there should be one place were they can go or why not just keep them to the tarka trail my sister has nearly died from steping in do poo its not on yes there is people that pick it up witch is good but for them that dont makes it bad for all but still dont think they should be around any were that children play

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  • marjorie  |  November 21 2012, 12:14PM

    i live in bideford and every were you go the is dog poo every were i walk my kids to school every day and you can not walk down the streets any were with out it being all the way down i was all so walking to work one day throught the park and there was a lady there with a little white dog letting it do its poo in the sand pit she didnt evon pick it up and my 5 year old has all so been knoced over 4 times bby a dog witch has trued to get a stick out his hand there shoul be one place were they can go or why not just keep them to the tarka trail my sister has nearly died from steping in do poo its not on yes there is people that pick it up witch is good but for them that dont makes it bad for all but stuill dont think they should be around any were that children play and i am a dog lover but just thing things need to change

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  • westwardhobod  |  November 20 2012, 7:49PM

    Out of control dogs running up barking and scaring people plus stealing childrens play-balls etc too - its not just the dog mess that is a problem

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  • hake4life  |  November 20 2012, 7:07PM

    However much we become a nation of dog lovers, there are some public spaces which a responsible community must ensure are free from dog mess and uncontrolled dogs - spaces such as sports fields, children's playgrounds and popular beaches during the summer require a higher level of protection than places like high streets and grass verges, so it's not unreasonable for a community to exclude dogs from them - the law allows for such exclusions and specifies the places above for special consideration. Most beaches are great for exercising dogs, but on very busy beaches like the ones in St Ives, where the level of cleanliness needs to be beyond doubt, it's reasonable to exclude dogs throughout the summer months. On beaches which we invite people to spend their summer holiday on it's not enough to pick up after a dog has defecated, these beaches shouldn't be used as a dog convenience in the first place; if someone urinated on the sand and then invited you to put your towel on it, you wouldn't feel great about it, this is no different. People should welcome the news that St Ives has reintroduced seasonal exclusions on it's main beaches - dog owners are welcome to come to St Ives, there is still unrestricted year round access in St Ives, both on open green space and also on the sandy beaches adjacent to the harbour and the inside harbour during the early morning and evening during the summer months. There are no restrictions on any beaches or the harbour in St Ives between October 1st and Easter. It takes a lot more than picking up after a dog to be a responsible owner; it also requires owners accept that the normal behaviour of a family pet can have a negative impact on the environment and on other members of the community, so it's responsible to accept reasonable restrictions even when it means dogs are banned from busy beaches.

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  • maddogwoman  |  November 20 2012, 6:54PM

    What about the dangers of seagull, fox and cat poo. Oh not forgetting the dirty nappies that parents sneakily dump behind a sand dune or under the car. Yes there are dog owners who don't care about their dogs jumping up at people, or leaving dog poo on the ground. But why should the responsible ones be penalised. All we want is to walk our dogs after we have had a **** day at work, hassled by people. If they are going to ban dogs everywhere, are they going to build dog parks where dog owners can go? People who keep dogs, go out in all weathers to exercise them. not sit on their backsides all day. One thing to remember, alot of holiday makers bring their dogs with them. Will they come back if they cannot walk their dogs anywhere?

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  • Peterzz  |  November 20 2012, 4:28PM

    We go to Exmouth beach with our two kids a couple of times a month. Everytime we go there I always come across at least a few piles of pooh within a small stretch, with the kids always having dogs sniffing around them. Hardly ever is there a dog on the lead on the beach. A complete ban would be ideal as far as I am concerned, as there seems to be very few responsible dog owners these days. Please can anyone explain the need to pick your dog pooh up in a bag & then tie it to the branch of a tree along the edge of a path? Or throw the bag into the hedge of a private garden?Yes I know its all done by just one or two...Blah blah.....Just these one or two get everywhere these days!

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  • burwood  |  November 20 2012, 3:49PM

    The captivity of any animal as pets should be phased out, this would stop alot of problems for the animals that are miss treated and the people that are forced to endour over peoples animals!

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  • APExeter  |  November 20 2012, 1:45PM

    Lafrowda- couldn't agree more. This is about dealing with irreponsible dog owners and nothing else- in the same way that the council has to deal with irresponsible parents. Education, bins and enforcing penalties (the cost of which is covered by the fines- which could be increased further). I despise someone who watches their dog excrete and then leaves it behind - as much as I despise boy racers that drive at illegal break neck speeds along the sea front -risking death or injury to animal or human- or people playing cricket or rounders near others- who quite often get hit or have to dodge balls- are we to ban all ball games on the beach and all teenager sea front drivers? A degree of common sense and tolerence is needed- respect for other peoples rights- whether to walk their dog (subject to picking up its faeces), play games (subject to finding an open space where others are less likely to be injured) or drive a car (subject to the law). 'Banning' anything and everything rather than finding a solution- is not an answer...

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  • pete13  |  November 20 2012, 1:34PM

    As a dog lover I support any action to improve and support better dog control in this country..lots of people with dogs but not enough owners !

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  • pussycat64  |  November 20 2012, 12:45PM

    Dogs are animals not people and they should be banned from all beaches when weather warm enough for children to play there. A lot of dog owners dont even pick up their dogs do doo. If you want a dog thats fine but i dont think they should be allowed anywhere children play and if they dont agree thats tough. Its my opinion and i am entitled to it. There is nothing worse than the look or smell of dog poo especially when you step in it. The government need to develop a chip that all dogs must have and then dog wardens can take a sample of the dog poo thats been left behind. Have it tested and send a fine a very large fine to the owner. If they dont pay ban them from having animals and take the dog away.

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