The Kennel Club is concerned that following its Public Spaces Protection Order consultation, the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames is still planning to introduce measures which will seriously restrict not only the freedom of dog walkers, but also of any other member of the public who chooses Richmond’s large open spaces for recreation.
London Borough of Richmond upon Thames has consulted with its residents on Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) to help the police and council tackle anti-social behaviour on public land. A PSPO is a new measure which replaces existing legislation and introduces wider discretionary powers to deal with any particular nuisance or problem that is detrimental to the local community’s quality of life. The orders can be enforced by fixed penalty notices or prosecution by police or council officers.
When Richmond opened up its consultation period earlier this year, it was met with great concern from many dog owners in the area especially in regards to restrictions on the number of dogs which may be walked at once. A large petition was carried out by residents of Richmond, which gained over 1,700 signatures, and 59% of respondents to the consultation also disagreed to the council limiting dogs being walked at any one time to four.
However, Richmond has still taken the decision to impose a four dog restriction on dog walkers. The council is proposing a 12 month pilot scheme to license up to 15 people to be exempted from this restriction; however, there appears to be no obvious reason why this number has been decided upon. This potentially leaves some dog owners having to take their dogs out on separate walks.
The Kennel Club is further concerned by some of the other byelaws that are being suggested. For example, a byelaw is being proposed that a person in charge of a dog on any of Richmond’s open spaces where dogs are permitted, must not cause or permit annoyance to any other person or animal, or cause damage to any council structure, equipment, tree, shrub, plant, turf or other such council property. The Kennel Club is in complete agreement that dogs should always be kept under suitable control, but is concerned that there is no clarification by the council to what constitutes an annoyance. Would the occasional bark be constituted as an annoyance, and how will annoyance to another animal be measured and assessed? There is concern that annoyance to people is a very low bar to pass.
The second clause about damaging turf and trees is also very ambiguous and worded so that any typical dog behaviour could fall under this. While the Kennel Club wouldn’t expect enforcement in this manner, it cannot be taken as a given and tough enforcement could take place under these new protection orders.
There are many other restrictions to be put in place, such as restrictions on anyone disturbing any animal, digging, damaging or disturbing the ground or removing or displacing any stone, soil or turf. Questions need to be asked to what these restrictions would include, for example, would swatting a mosquito, shooing away a pigeon, throwing a skimming stone, feeding the ducks fall under this? Would walking across a park disturb the ground, especially if wearing studs if playing sport?
Other clauses include not throwing or using any device to propel or discharge any object which is liable to cause nuisance, injury or damage to any other person, animal or structure. This would therefore include throwing a ball or frisbee around a park, which could lead to injury or nuisance.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary said: “While the Kennel Club can support reasonable PSPOs and is happy to help work with councils and advise on dog issues to try and ensure responsible dog ownership, we are very concerned to read Richmond’s proposals which seem not only extreme but very restrictive on its many residents. If enforced to the degree it implies, it will seriously limit any enjoyment that members of the public can enjoy in the London Borough of Richmond.”
A meeting by London Borough of Richmond upon Thames is being held on Tuesday 11th July to provide the opportunity for the councillors to review the proposals and consultation responses, and the Kennel Club will be present to voice its concerns. For further information on the results of the consultation and the proposed PSPOs, please go to https://consultation.richmond.gov.uk/environment/pspo/.
The Kennel Club runs KC Dog which is a dog owner campaign group, free to join, which keeps members updated on dog access issues, and other relevant Kennel Club campaigns, which may affect dog owners across the country. Read further information on our campaign: access for owners and dogs, or join us on twitter @KC_political.