Dog owners could face £80 fines for walking their pets off the lead

    RUNNING FREE - Bailey may have to be on the lead at the Castle soon
    RUNNING FREE – Bailey may have to be on the lead at the Castle soon

    PLANS to introduce fines for walking your dog off the lead in certain areas of Tonbridge have received a mixed response from pet owners in the town.

    The proposals are part of the Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) being considered by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council (TMBC).

    If approved, it would mean a person found walking a dog off the lead around the Castle grounds would face a fine of up to £80.

    In all public areas in the borough, including the Racecourse Sports Ground, dogs must be kept on a lead only if the owner is instructed to do so by an authorised person. If they fail to, they will receive a £80 fine.

    This aims to stop a loose dog causing a nuisance, annoyance or disturbance to other people or to wildlife.

    In Haysden Park and Tonbridge Farm Sports Ground, the ban will only apply in the car parks.

    Other proposals will impact the whole borough where fines could be issued for:

    • People caught walking more than six dogs at once.
    • Dogs being allowed in children’s play areas.
    • Those who fail to pick up their dog’s excrement

    Clare Robins, who has lived in Tonbridge for the last 19 years and walks her springer spaniel Jake regularly in the town’s parks, said: “I am very upset by these proposals. Dog owners are out all through the year, come rain or shine.

    “Tonbridge is my home town and I spend my money here to support local businesses while out, but if my daughter and I, and my dog can’t enjoy a country walk without him running free we might just start going elsewhere.”

    Clare suggested instead of a blanket ban on dogs being off leads, why not have set times when these rules applied such as when children are likely to be around.

    Another dog walker, Eleanor Jane Cooper, said that the large dog-friendly parks were ‘one of the main reasons for moving to Tonbridge’, adding: “We would be very disappointed if we were restricted to certain areas, or had to use a lead while on walks with [our dog] Bailey. I think dog owners would certainly walk elsewhere-so in the winter months the parks would be really empty. We have met very few dogs that have behaved badly while off the lead, most owners are very responsible.”

    Gordon Hodge bemoaned the lack of parity for dog-owners and parents. “Why don’t they have a section in the park where children aren’t allowed and we can let our dogs off the lead?” he asked.

    Cllr Vivian Branson, a Conservative for Castle Ward, claims she always keeps her two dogs on the lead in busy areas, and defended the proposals as ‘extremely sensible’ since it ‘protects the dogs and the public at large’.

    “No one is suggesting that dogs should be on lead all the time but those owners who cannot control their dogs will be required to keep them on lead,” she said.

    The proposals were debated last night (January 31) by the TMBC Cabinet and will now go out to public consultation next month.

    Elsewhere in the UK…

    In other parts of the country similar proposals have been met with protests from dog walkers.

    In Flyde, Lancashire, hundreds took to the streets to campaign on behalf of their pet freedoms after the council proposed to ban dogs being off the lead on all public highways.