Dog owners accuse council of ‘discrimination’ over proposed park restrictions

Wallace Park, Lisburn.
Wallace Park, Lisburn.

Disgruntled local dog owners who’ve vowed to fight council plans to ban dogs off-lead from areas of Lisburn’s Wallace Park are planning to hold a walk this Sunday to highlight their campaign.

Those behind the ‘Lisburn is Barking Mad’ campaign have also launched a petition opposing Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s proposals, claiming the draft Dog Control Orders are “restrictive” and “blatant discrimination” against responsible pet owners.

It’s understood a hard copy of the petition has already been signed by more than 250 people, and an online version was launched this week on the change.org website.

One of the campaigners, who didn’t want to be named, claimed the proposal to ban dogs from the pitches in the park during the football season (September - April) is “heavy handed and disproportionate”.

“The measures proposed are punitive and draconian as during early mornings and late evenings daily dog walkers are the only inhabitants of the park, therefore allowing dogs off-lead and on the pitches is causing a nuisance to no one,” she said.

Claiming that “dog fouling is not an issue” and stressing that “responsible dog walkers pick up and bin any fouling that occurs”, she continued: “Dog walkers in Wallace Park are ratepayers, not visitors. They have paid through their rates for the installation of the pitches and they pay annually for the upkeep of the park including the pitches, therefore they should be entitled to use all areas to exercise their dogs. Should these Orders be enforced, dog walkers should be entitled to a rate rebate.”

The woman added: “Wallace Park provides a safe, well lit and well maintained, fenced in space both for animals and humans where dog walkers can feel safe to exercise their dogs off-lead. No other council space in Lisburn provides this facility.

“Dog walkers are being marginalised and treated as second class citizens as the alternative area in Wallace Park proposed by the council for use by dogs off-lead, adjacent to the duck pond, is totally unsuitable as it is a swamp.”

She said the campaign’s Dog Walk in the Park event is due to take place on Sunday, March 4 and invited local dog owners to meet in the car park at the Belsize Road entrance at 2pm to “demonstrate strong objection” to the proposed Dog Control Orders.

Responding to the campaigners’ concerns, a council spokesperson stressed that a public consultation process in relation the proposed Dog Control Orders is still ongoing.

“To ensure that the football pitches remain clean and of a high standard, the draft Orders propose that dog walking/exercise on the football pitches is restricted between September and April,” she said.

“Under the current proposals dog walkers will still be able to exercise their dogs in all other areas of Wallace Park (with the exception of the playground), both on and off the lead.

“Off-lead restrictions under the Dog Order proposals would be confined to cemeteries and caravan parks.

“It is also proposed that an enclosed dog exercise area be piloted at Wallace Park to provide a dedicated space for dog walkers in the park and residents are encouraged to make their opinions known through the current consultation process.”

The spokesperson added: “The council recognises that dog walkers enjoy using its parks and open spaces to exercise their pets and it fully supports their wish to do so. In proposing these Dog Control Orders the council is striving to balance the needs of users and ensure these shared spaces can be enjoyed by all and would emphasise that no decisions will be made until the findings of the consultation have been fully considered.”

All local residents - those who own dogs and those who don’t - are being urged to make their opinions known through the online consultation at www.lisburncastlereagh.gov.uk/resident/dog-control-service/dog-control-order-consultation before it closes on March 15.