You can’t help but notice when you’re out and about in Torridge that there are a very large number of dog owners across our district, a trend which seems to have grown in recent years. We are of course very lucky to live in such a wonderful part of the country and an area in which we can enjoy the countryside with our four-legged companions.
As a Neighbourhood Officer with Torridge District Council, I carry out the Dog Warden Duties on behalf of the council. I am in the really lucky position to be able interact and work with many wonderful and responsible dog owners, breeders and their dogs.
Whilst the majority of owners are responsible in their approach, we do sadly also receive quite a large number of complaints about irresponsible dog ownership. The calls range from dog fouling, dogs barking, dogs running free, dogs causing a nuisance, dogs worrying and attacking livestock, to dogs attacking other dogs. Here are a few reminders on good practice we should all be following:
Dogs do have altercations and we can’t expect every dog to get on amicably with others. However, all owners should be aware that it is unacceptable to allow your dog to repeatedly attack other dogs. If your dog is aggressive to another dog, it may also cause an owner to feel threatened and at risk. As a result of escalating incidents, the law regarding dangerous dogs was changed recently, meaning that if a person feels at risk from a dog, a criminal offence may have been committed.
Owners need to be aware that even if you think your dog would never bite a person, this change in the law means that you should not allow it to run up to a person and potentially make them feel threatened. The other thing to remember is that although we all love our dogs and may also feel confident around any other dogs, there are many people who have a very genuine fear of dogs, maybe caused by a bad experience in their past. It is kind and polite to put your dog on a lead if asked to do so by someone – and to remember that they are not purposefully trying to offend you!
It is the responsibility of every owner to watch their dog, know their dog’s behaviour and manage their dog’s interactions. If your dog is off lead and you see another dog on a lead, it is important that you place your dog on a lead too. Your dog may be friendly and love other dogs, however, other dogs may not feel the same, even though this may not be due to anything an owner has done. Dogs on leads sometimes behave differently than when off a lead and so balancing any interaction is important.
Many adult dogs do not like puppies as they are usually overly exuberant when young and have not yet learnt dog behaviour and how to interact with other dogs. As a result, it is not OK to allow a puppy to rush up to an older dog without checking ahead that it is OK to do so. Puppies do not need to ‘learn their lesson” by being snapped at or potentially injured. Interactions should be positive and managed to help the puppy grow up into a respectful, confident, and non-reactive dog.
Council enforcement powers
Under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, Torridge has a district-wide Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) with regard to dogs. It covers land open to the air and to which the public are entitled or permitted to have access to. The PSPO makes it an offence to allow dogs to:
• Cause harassment, alarm or distress off lead
• Be in vulnerable areas such as the restricted areas of our busy blue flag beach or children’s play areas.
Failure to pick up dog mess is a district-wide, and serious problem. However, I would say that almost every dog owner I meet and talk to is either carrying their bagged dog poo to a bin or has a pocket full of poo bags. It is sadly the absolute minority that fail to pick up after their dog, but this minority cause a significant issue and tarnish all other dog owners by their behaviour. Our team of Neighbourhood Officers have issued and will continue to issue fines for failing to pick up dog mess – and just to note, claiming not to notice it happening is not a valid excuse.
Even if a dog is in an area where it is allowed to be off lead, if an officer witnesses it being out of control and causing harassment, alarm or distress, they will ask you to place your dog on a lead. Failure to do so may result in the individual being served a Fixed Penalty Notice of £100. The wonderful countryside we have in Torridge is for everyone to enjoy, dog owners and non-dog owners alike. By following these simple rules, we can all enjoy it together in harmony.