New restrictions on dog owners unveiled
Sanchez Manning DOG OWNERS will be banned from allowing their pets off the lead or from walking in certain no-go areas in a scheme to be trialled in Westminster. Residents of Queen s Park and Churchill Gardens Estate, where the initiative is being piloted
DOG OWNERS will be banned from allowing their pets off the lead or from walking in certain no-go areas in a scheme to be trialled in Westminster.
Residents of Queen's Park and Churchill Gardens Estate, where the initiative is being piloted, face up to �1,000 fines if they break the control orders set by the council.
In these areas dogs will be required to be kept on a lead at all times and will be excluded from a number of sports pitches and playgrounds.
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If the scheme is successful it may be adopted as council policy and the restrictions could be applied across parts of the borough.
The prospect of having to abide by the new controls has been met by a mixed reaction from animal lovers living in Westminster.
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Dolly Cuthbert, chairwoman of Lisson Green residents' association, who says dangerous dogs have been an issue in her neighbourhood for some time, has welcomed the proposals.
She said: "It's not as bad as it used to be but there are still problems with these big, macho boys who constantly have their dogs off the lead. I think it's a good idea, and I love dogs."
Her views were echoed by Church Street resident Brian Whittaker, who owns a Staffordshire Pitbull Terrier.
"I think it's a wonderful idea, my dog's never been off the lead in his life," he said.
But concerns have also been raised about whether dogs will be able to exercise properly if the controls are enforced.
Alison Goodwin, who runs St John's Pets on Allitsen Road, St John's Wood, said she thought keeping a dog on the lead all the time was "terrible".
She said: "Running around off the lead is the only exercise some dogs get.
"I think parks should have their own section for dogs so they don't disturb families and children, but I don't agree with them being banned from whole areas."
Klaire Kennett, from the RSPCA's London office, said Westminster was risking punishing the majority of dog owners for the actions of an irresponsible few.
But Matt Cooper, the council's head of crime policy, vowed that a blanket ban was not on the cards.
He said: "The order will only be used as and when issues arise.
"If a residents' group comes to us and says 'five nights a week we walked in this area and there were youngsters with dogs out of control', then we may think about introducing the order.
"But before we do that we have to consult with everyone in the area who will be affected."
The six-month trial of the control orders is expected to be launched within the next eight weeks.
During that time between 20- 50 council officers will be patrolling Queen's Park and Churchill Gardens Estate issuing fines to anyone caught breaking the regulations.
A similar plan had to be dropped in Camden in 2007 after overwhelming opposition from dog owners.
The scheme wanted to ban dogs off the lead in the entire borough apart from specific exercise zones.
A record number of responses were made to the council with thousands of dog owners fighting to allow their dogs the freedom to roam, leading to an embarrassing defeat for council bosses.