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Dog lovers lobby grows

A NEW anti-dog mood in Britain has prompted dog owners to form campaign groups to fight for their rights.

UK DOG lobby groups are expected to be established in at least 35 areas by the summer, with the intention of covering the whole country by the end of the year.

The move is in response to rapidly growing restrictions on responsible dog owners, who are finding it increasingly difficult to exercise their dogs in open areas such as fields, common land, parks and beaches. The campaign is being co-ordinated by the Kennel Club, whose patron is the Queen, and the charity PRO Dogs.

They believe that far from being a nation of dog lovers, the British are no longer tolerant of dogs or their owners. The behaviour of dog owners who allow their pets to foul parks and pavements is affecting the rights of all owners. Dog owners are therefore being urged to speak out about their concerns and to lobby their local councils. One of their priorities is to ensure that local authorities enforce dog fouling laws and penalise offending owners.

Another threat is "right to roam" legislation due to come into force by the end of next year. Local access forums are being set up to decide which parks will be open for walkers, including dog walkers.

The Kennel Club and PRO Dogs are lobbying the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to scrap rules that will prevent owners from exercising their dogs without a lead for five months of the year when birds are ground nesting.

They say that dogs off their leads are no threat to birds and accuse the Government of being overly influenced by landowners and environmental groups. UK DOG plans to exert pressure on local decision-making groups and find a compromise.

Dog owners are also concerned about Breed Specific Legislation on the Continent to ban the ownership of breeds such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. As previously reported, there is already a ban on SBTs and other breeds in Germany, and Norway is introducing a similar ban. Many British dog owners fear that the EU may seek to implement a similar EU-wide edict.

Plans by the Greater London Authority to introduce a licence for anyone owning more than four dogs have also angered the dog groups. They have called on the Department for Environment to intervene and impose a national law. They believe that a licence should be compulsory only for people who own or walk ten dogs.

Phil Buckley of the Kennel Club press office said: "There is no doubt we are detecting a country that is anti-dog. I own a Staffordshire bull terrier and I get verbally abused for owning a dangerous dog at least once a week. This attitude is spreading, and it is affecting the right to walk dogs in many areas.

"It’s not just about parks. You can go on a footpath or right-of-way in the country and find obstacles for dogs. We know there are irresponsible owners but they are in the minority and responsible owners are having to suffer."