Park ‘descending into anarchy’ it is claimed

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Dogs being allowed to run off their leads are reducing Lurgan Park to anarchy, it has been claimed

One frustrated dog owner contacted the ‘MAIL’ and described witnessing not only a fight between two dogs - but their owners as well,

And he called for tougher byelaws to force owners to keep their dogs on a lead, citing human rights legislation stating that people should be able to live free from fear.

Indeed he said he was forming a new group called ‘Free From Fear’ to campaign for council to change the byelaws to forbid people walking their dogs off the lead.

He claimed to have witnessed ‘a mass brawl between two families’ of dog walkers on a recent Sunday in the park.

He said one owner had his dog on a lead and it was attacked by another dog which was not on a lead. The dogs started fighting, then the owners started to fight and then their families joined in, he claimed.

“This was four men and three women in their 40s and 50s,” he said.

He added that this is a regular occurrence. “It has got completely out of control. And phoning the dog warden is a waste of time.”

“Nothing is being done to tackle this problem. Someone is going to get killed. Already a number of animals have been killed or badly injured.”

“It’s now like a battleground,” he said.

“It is a lovely park, well maintained but people are being put off going to the park because of irresponsible dog owners.”

He called on Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council to amend the byelaws so that dogs must be kept on a lead at all times.

And he called for a permanent park warden to be on the spot to help deal with the serious issues in the park.

“All hell is breaking loose and no one seems to want to tackle the problem,” he said. “The Council seem to want to brush this issue under the carpet.”

The control of dogs in Council’s Parks and Open Spaces is currently governed by the Council Byelaws, which state that dogs must be kept under proper control. Council has traditionally permitted responsible dog owners to walk their dogs in the parks off the lead, whilst keeping their dogs under proper control.

A Council spokesperson said: “Council has the power to make dog control orders under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2011 which includes a requirement to keep dogs on leads in specified areas. Before making any such orders, the Council must engage in a public consultation process and consider any representations that may be made.

“The Council is currently reviewing its Byelaws and is also considering the powers that are available to it under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act in relation to the making of dog control orders.

“The Council previously approved a dog control order in relation to dog fouling which extends across the Borough and enables the higher fixed penalty fee of £80 to be issued to offenders.

“Whilst no decisions have yet been made on additional orders, the Council is considering options available. The next step is to consult on an order which would prevent dogs being taken into more sensitive areas such as children’s play parks and sports grounds. This process will take place over the next 3–4 months with a decision expected in early Spring. Following the completion of that process, the Council will then look at other dog control orders which require dogs to be kept on leads in specified areas.

“Patrols by Environmental Wardens will be increased in local parks to monitor the current situation and Council would urge all dog owners to act responsibly and asks members of the public to report any incidents to parks staff who are on site and can deal with matters of this kind.”