Petition launched over ban on dogs running free

MORE than 250 people have signed a petition objecting to a ban on loose dogs in North Walsham Memorial Park.Dog owner and North Walsham resident Douglas Roy, who launched the protest, said many pet owners were outraged at the town council's move which had been taken without public consultation.

MORE than 250 people have signed a petition objecting to a ban on loose dogs in North Walsham Memorial Park.

Dog owner and North Walsham resident Douglas Roy, who launched the protest, said many pet owners were outraged at the town council's move which had been taken without public consultation.

The decision was unnecessary and would prevent elderly and blind people from being able to exercise their dogs, according to Mr Roy, who regularly lets his golden retriever Tai off her lead in the park.

A majority of councillors voted in September that dogs must be kept on leads at all times in the park.

The move followed a complaint from a grandmother whose three-year-old granddaughter had been terrified when she was chased by a loose dog during a family picnic, attracted by food in her hand.

The petition calls on the council to overturn their decision and demands a public meeting to discuss the matter.

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“It's a very unfair and anti-dog decision,” said Mr Roy. “The park is for the use of everybody as long as they behave, and my dog always does. This was one incident where a dog tried to take one kid's biscuit. I think it's been blown out of all proportion. One bad dog doesn't make us all negligent.”

Fellow dog owner Colin Cowey said much of the time he brought his Labrador Henry to the park it was virtually empty. “This decision makes no sense whatsoever. A great mass of this field is very rarely used and very early in the morning there are only dog walkers here anyway,” he said.

Since their vote, councillors have discovered that a ban both on cyclists and unrestrained dogs in the park was already covered by bylaws dating from 1949.

Town mayor Brian Wexler said the bylaws had fallen into abeyance following the loss, decades ago, of a park keeper to enforce them.

But they had never been rescinded and notices would be going up to inform people about the rules.

“Our first priority is to ensure that children are safe,” said Mr Wexler.

“What would happen now if a child got attacked by a dog in the park and the parents went to law and said the town council could have done something and didn't?”

Although there was no money to employ a park keeper, he expected law- abiding park users to obey.

Town clerk Margaret Foster said North Norfolk District Council was responsible for dog control orders, under the terms of the Environmental Health Act.

The district had asked if the town council wanted any areas covered, and their chosen method of restraint, and she had sent the council's decision for inclusion in the orders.

· Copies of Mr Roy's petition are available in North Walsham shops Country Pets, Morton's shoe repairs and the Tack Stop.

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