County Durham’s residents have overwhelmingly approved council plans to tackle problems caused by irresponsible dog owners.
As a result, Durham County Council is set to introduce new powers as part of its new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), which will come into force on June 1st.
The introduction of the PSPO will make it a finable offence for pet owners to allow their dogs to stray.
Dog owners could also be fined for refusing to put their dogs on a lead when asked to by authorised officers and for allowing their pets to enter fenced off children’s play areas.
Under the PSPO, it will remain an offence for dog owners to allow their pets to foul public places without picking the excrement up.
Between August and December 2016, Durham County Council sought the public’s views on its dog control ideas. 80% of those who took part in the consultation agreed with the council’s proposals.
The majority of those who responded to the consultation hoped that the PSPO might reduce the number of stray dogs and encourage responsible dog ownership.
The participants also wanted to see safe and welcoming fixed space play areas for children and action taken to reduce the number of dog fouling incidents.
In 2015/16, Durham County Council received 1,778 calls about stray dogs. In the same year, 1,173 such animals were collected by the council.
The council hopes that, by making it an offence to allow a dog to stray, the number of stray dogs can be decreased.
Trained council officers and Durham Constabulary staff will have the power to issue Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) fines of £100 (reduced to £60 if paid within 10 working days) for violation of the Public Space Protection Order.
People who fail to pay the FPN could be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000.
The PSPO will not apply to people who are registered as blind or disabled or who need to use trained assistance dogs.
The leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, said, “We are very pleased with the positive response and welcoming comments by members of the public who agreed, by majority, to implement a Public Space Protection Order for dog control in County Durham.”
“These new powers will enable us to take action against irresponsible dog owners and those who affect the public’s health and wellbeing through their actions.”
“The new order will also complement our ongoing education and engagement programmes, which encourage dog owners to do the right thing and act in the best interests of others to protect the towns and villages where we live, work or visit.”
Oliver Sherratt, the council’s head of direct services, said, “While most dog owners in our county are responsible, it is the minority who spoil our local communities and environment for others.”
“These new powers will help keep our neighbourhoods clean, green and safe.”