Temporary truce called in dog-leash row in Swords

by Sylvia Pownall

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]A temporary truce has been called in an ongoing row between Fingal County Council and dog owners objecting to restricted off-leash activity.

Members of Fingal Dog Owners’ Group (DOG) are barking mad over the council’s decision to fence off an area for walking dogs off the lead at a Swords park.

They were today facing into their fifth day of protest at the Ward River Valley park but called it off after the local authority agreed to halt the works.

The council has agreed to delay the completion of the project pending discussions at a meeting to be held next Monday.

The group wants Fingal County Council to reverse a byelaw governing public parks and open spaces which restricts off-leash dog walking to designated areas.

Spokesperson Ciara Deery told Dublin Gazette: “We were due to meet with the council next Monday 17 December, and then they went ahead and put up fencing.

“We feel this new law is restrictive and discriminatory and is causing great stress to law-abiding citizens.”

Fingal DOG protested outside the November meeting of Fingal County Council and has launched on online petition which has over 5,000 signatures.

Members with mobility issues have expressed concerns about the suitability and accessibility of the proposed designated off-leash areas which represent just 1.4 per cent of park space.

The area which was partially fenced off in the Ward River Valley park in Swords runs between two bridges, cordons off trees and access is on a slope.

Ciara said: “Anybody with mobility issues cannot use this. There is no paving whatsoever. The area is quite generous in terms of space but it’s not practical.

“The river runs through the middle of it. It’s an awful thing to do to the Ward park.”

Fingal DOG argues that the new byelaws are unfair to both dogs and their owners because “it prevents them from providing adequate exercise for their dogs while alienating them on a social level from other park users”.

It claims dog parks have been proven by experts to be a dangerous environment for both owners and dogs forced to walk in close proximity. The group has received messages of support from ISPCA CEO Dr Andrew Kelly and a number of animal welfare experts including TV vet Pete Wedderburn.

The local authority adopted the new byelaws after an extensive public consultation process. There were a large number of submissions voicing concern, in particular from dog walkers who use Ardgillan demesne in Balbriggan.

A spokesperson for Fingal County Council said they were acting on a decision taken at an October meeting of the local authority.

The spokesperson added: “Following local observations the matter was revisited by the area committee in October and a decision on two new areas within the park was taken.

“The council are now implementing that decision.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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