Mum pleads for dog fencing’s removal in Swords park

by Dublin Gazette
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A mother has pleaded with the council to remove newly-erected fencing at a public park in Swords so she can walk her disabled son with his beloved dog.

Catherine Swords says she can no longer take her eight-year-old boy Tom out with his service dog Gerri because of strict new byelaws governing off-leash activity.

Tom was born with a heart condition and has a rare chromosomal disorder which causes intellectual and physical developmental issues.

He has poor muscle tone, cannot walk, is non-verbal and is tubefed. As his full-time carer, Catherine – who lives in Knocksedan – regularly pushes Tom in his buggy with Gerri walking alongside but she says she can no longer do so.

She told Dublin Gazette: “For me to hold the dog on a lead and push the buggy with a 22-kilo child is virtually impossible. Tom loves to get out with Gerri.

“It’s good for my mental health too, but the new fencing at the Ward River Valley park means I have to pull my son through a pen full of dogs, which I feel threatened in, so they can have a bit of fun.

“The ground is uneven, there are no benches, nowhere we can stop and sit.

“Where is the regard for people with disabilities?” Catherine acknowledged that service dogs are exempt from the new byelaws, but said she likes to walk Gerri, a golden doodle, “as a normal dog” without her coat sometimes.

She said: “When she’s out walking she’s not working. I’ve had her offleash for five years without an issue. Now we’re supposed to just put her in a pen and stand there?

“Sure, what’s the purpose of that for your mental health?” Catherine pointed out that while dogs must be kept on a leash in Malahide Demesne, both they and their walkers are “in danger of being run over by the train or someone on a bike”.

She supports Fingal Dog Owners’ Group which held a protest in Malahide at the weekend to put pressure on the local authority to reverse the new byelaws.

A spokesperson for Fingal County Council said senior officials had held discussions with the group in December and a second meeting was planned for next week.

The spokesperson added: “The new Parks and Open Spaces Byelaws have been created to reflect the need of all of Fingal’s park users. They aim to make parks and open spaces safer, cleaner and more enjoyable for everyone.”

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