To consider the joint report HCS/30 of the Head of Community Services and the Petitions Officer.
The Commission considered joint report HCS/30 of the Head of Community Services and Petitions Officer.
The report responded to the petition submitted from residents titled ‘Keep your dog on a lead in Tilgate Park. The petition documented the concerns and wished the council to increase signage and warden patrol around Tilgate lake to ensure dogs were kept on leads while walking around the lake and to implement the enforcement of rules when this was not adhered to:
“We the undersigned petition the council to Increase signage and warden patrol around Tilgate lake to ensure dogs are kept on leads while walking around the lake. To implement enforcement of rules are not adhered too. My dog was attacked while walking around the lake by a dog that was not kept on its lead. The rules are clear on the website, however there isn’t sufficient signage and enforcement of rules for dog owners not adhering to the rules. Therefore increased presence of signage, policing and enforcement is required”
Members were informed of the key areas for consideration and recommendation within report HCS/30. The report outlined the research that had been undertaken following receipt of the petition. Members considered this and the additional information.
During the discussion with the Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, the Head of Community Services and Neighbourhood Services Manager, Members made the following comments:
· It was acknowledged that the petition referred to Tilgate Park only, however it was hoped Tilgate Park could be a trial for other parks as it was not a problem confined just to one particular area within the town, as the recent dog on dog attacks in Worth Park (which unfortunately resulted in a death of a dog) and that along Worth Way were also mentioned.
· It was felt it was the responsibility of dog owners to keep their dog on a lead and to ensure it was kept under control. Acknowledgement that dogs react differently in various environments and being on a lead would be one option to assist this.
· Dogs were not allowed in the walled garden, nature centre or children’s play area within Tilgate Park. The walled garden and nature centre were routinely staffed making this easier to manage and in general it was felt that the public largely complied with and respected the need to keep dogs out of the play area.
· Disappointment was expressed that the current signage within Tilgate Park had not been successful and the vandalism of signs unacceptable.
· There was acknowledgement that the enforcement options detailed in the report included by-laws, PSPOs and CPNs when officers and the police would have to actually witness the infringement and obtain sufficient evidence. These enforcement options differed to the current Community Warden patrols, which provided a visible presence challenging and encouraging owners of dogs off leads. It was noted that the park covered a huge area and it was felt by some that patrols should take place around the entire park, not just the lake.
· Recognition that as part of a communication plan there could be opportunities to focus on more than one issue. Community Wardens have a variety of work and respond geographically to multiple ASB issues including Tilgate Park. There was a good communications plan for Tilgate Park but this could be strengthened with the dogs on leads issue and it was hoped to work with a ‘Friends of’ group to develop the message.
· An update was provided on the ‘Hound Ground’ in that further work was ongoing but it was anticipated it would reopen in the future.
· It was felt the number of attacks was under reported and the public should be encouraged to report incidents.
· Recognition that the actions needed to be robust and the penalty of keeping a dog on a lead paled into insignificance when compared to a dog attack and injury inflicted. The majority of Commission members voiced a preference for option 2 within the report, expressing support for the Community Warden Patrol enforcement around the park. Whilst enforcement options were discussed at length, it was thought that option 3 may be heavily resource intensive without resulting in behavioural change and minimum reward in comparison. It was hoped that option 2 may in time be rolled out to other parks. Should the Cabinet support option 2, it was suggested that a review takes place in 6-9 months’ time following the implementation to assess its operation.
That the Commission notes the petition, background report and requests that the views expressed during the debate, are fed back to the Cabinet through the Commission’s Comment sheet.