Waterlow Park's dog walkers are a reassuring presence

Many who enjoy walking their dogs in Waterlow Park may be unaware that they could soon be banned from doing just that. Camden Council is proposing new by-laws which mean that dogs would have to be kept on leads in its parks and open spaces in all planting

Many who enjoy walking their dogs in Waterlow Park may be unaware that they could soon be banned from doing just that. Camden Council is proposing new by-laws which mean that dogs would have to be kept on leads in its parks and open spaces in all planting and shrubbery areas, catering areas including picnic areas, all water features, play, sports and conservation areas. I think that just about covers the whole of Waterlow Park.

This would be catastrophic for the many dog walkers, especially the elderly, for whom Hampstead Heath may be too far, and for those who prefer the environment of a municipal park. But others would lose out as well.

It is well established that dog walkers, who may be out and about when others are not, act like a Neighbourhood Watch on the move. And solitary walkers in Waterlow Park on a grey winter's morning can surely only be comforted by the presence of regular dog walkers?

To walk a dog permanently on the lead would be cruel.

Yet a dog on the lead is not necessarily a dog under control. What about those who parade snarling beasts, reared to inculcate terror in others, on the end of a thick chain lead and spiked collar? In N6, it is other dog owners who are the first to point out aberrant canine behaviour and dog mess left unscooped. (Camden's proposed measures to deal with those who don't clean up after their dogs will be welcomed).

Strangely, not one of the list of right-on groups with whom Camden is consulting on its Dog Control Order Notice is related to dogs - no dog walking groups, vets, animal rescue organisations etc. However, the views of minority ethnic groups, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender groups are being canvassed.

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Polite dog walking society is one of the most inclusive groups you could meet (as the gentleman who appeared a while back dressed as Miss Marple will have found) but there is a simmering resentment in Highgate that they are not part of the consultation.

Having had two successive pairs of soppy but biddable rescued golden retrievers, I have been much cheered by the affection so many people in Highgate showed them when they were alive and the commiserations (often from strangers) when they departed.

We really are a nation of dog lovers and Waterlow Park would be a poorer place without their joyous presence.

Moira Petty

Southwood Lane, N6

Camden Council is proposing to force dogs to walk on the lead in Waterlow Park as from April 1.

I walk there twice a day and have never seen any problems caused by dogs. I have spoken to a few wardens who confirm they don't understand why Camden is proposing this.

If there were any issues, e.g. a violent dog or owners not removing their dog's mess, then there are laws in place to deal with that.

If the implication is that they are not able to police dogs' activities how are they going to police any further restrictions?

Camden has not quantified the problem. If a ban is required following a few isolated incidents then they should ban children and youths as well.

And, given that there have been a few muggings in the park, let's ban people altogether!

We asked Camden what groups they had canvassed and the list seemed arbitrary and totally unconnected with those using the park. Park users and dog owners did not appear on the list. Waterlow users are responsible and self-policing. I suggest the councillors ought to have investigated this first and have the decency to put up notices canvassing the users of the park.

The park is largely empty except at lunch times and weekends (in good weather) and very hot summer days. Most dog owners avoid these times. Certainly in the winter and in poor weather you will be hard pushed to see anyone else there other than dog owners.

We should be considering the welfare of all including the dogs. Elderly dog owners may have problems giving their dogs enough exercise on the lead and would not be able to get to another park easily.

Many of these owners live in flats and don't have cars. I will drive to Kenwood, walk the dog and spend my money there instead of at Lauderdale House.

The dogs are normally only interested in playing with other dogs and many non dog owners say how entertaining it is to see the dogs catching balls and sticks and tumbling around with other dogs. It is cruel to confine a dog to a lead when it is well behaved and doing no harm.

I reiterate, there are perfectly good laws in place to deal with any dogs that are not well trained.

I would like to put forward the possibility that this is another way of expanding Camden's coffers with the inevitable fines that will result.

Bernie Muir

North Road, N6

IS the public aware that The Corporation of London has agreed for Hampstead Heath to be included in Camden's ill-considered Proposed Dog Control Order Consultation? If implemented this would create more dog exclusion areas on the Heath, keeping dogs on leads at all times, and banning dogs from swimming in the ponds.

Hampstead Heath was created for the use of the public and their livestock. Does The Corporation of London intend to implement uncalled for dog control sanctions without holding its own public consultation? Healthy, happy, well socialised dogs need daily exercise off the lead. Camden seems intent on making this impossible throughout the borough.

Camden's Dog Control Order Consultation closes on March 15. Please email street.enviroment@camden.gov.uk and voice your objections before it's too late.

Barbra Flinder

Marquis Road, NW1

The Lib Dem led council has taken up the barking mad mantle of the previous Labourites and wants to enforce a ruling that dogs must be kept on the lead at all times in all parks and open spaces in Camden, except in a few designated places?

I regularly use Waterlow Park in Highgate (bequeathed by Sir Sidney Waterlow to be a garden for the gardenless) to exercise my dog to and from my workplace. I and many others will have to resort to using our cars to travel to walk our dogs! I do not have to explain the consequence of this in the current climate.

Dogs and their owners are the 'eyes and ears' of the parks and less use by dog walkers, especially in winter, will result in a less safe environment. Also many elderly and other groups may not be able or have access to travel to walk their pets. Not to mention the impact this will have on neighbouring boroughs where this draconian measure has not yet been implemented.

This legislation will alienate a close and law-abiding dog-walking community. The majority are responsible, clean up after their dogs and keep them under control. Of the few dog walkers who may continue to walk their pets in the parks if this law comes into force, many will feel forced to break the law and ignore it.

As one of many responsible dog owners I do not intend to merely 'roll over' and accept this without a fight. I urge readers who care about their four legged friends to fight for the right to exercise their dogs properly and responsibly in their local parks.

Avril Castellazzo

Highgate High Street, N6