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Politicians and Kennel Club condemn Wansbeck Council control figures
Faulty figures used by Council exposed

Embattled Wansbeck Council faces another challenge to its dog control orders. As the Newbiggin Dog Action Group plans a protest dog walk on 1 March, the day the orders will come into force, the Kennel Club’s dog owners group, KC Dog, is joining with local politicians to condemn the Council’s basis for introducing the orders.

The council stated as a justification for the introduction of the dog exclusion order that their 2006/2007 monthly target for issuing ‘educational approaches’ for dog walkers was very high, at 1,800. It was thus implied that 1,800 dog owners were being punished every month for not clearing up after their dogs. Councillor Boon has argued that these figures are incorrect: 1,800 was in fact the Council’s annual, not the monthly, target.

This error was pointed out to the Newbiggin Community Area Partnership who voted in favour of a total ban. Councillor Boon commented: “The figure of 1,800 per month and 21,600 per year as quoted and reported in newspapers is absolute nonsense and paints an incorrect picture of dog owners. I have a big problem with this as it brings the issue of democracy into question.”
The actual figures are as follows:

Number of educational approaches relating to dog fouling per annum

2006/07: target 1800, actual 2266.
2007/08: target 2,200, actual 2149 (to December 2007)
Fixed penalty notices served per annum
2006/07 target 12 actual 7
2007/08 target 15 actual 5 (to December 2007)

Furthermore, the Council used the term ‘educational approaches’ in a misleading way. It was implied that ‘approaches’ punish people who do not pick up after their dogs. In fact they involve a council official approaching dog owners and thanking them for picking up after their dog, issuing free poo bags and asking if the owners are aware of any problem areas with regard to dog fouling.

A penalty notice, on the other hand, involves a Council official issuing a fine to a dog owner for failure to clean up after their dog, and is the more relevant figure. So whereas the Council implied that in 2006/2007 there were 21,600 dog walkers being irresponsible, there were actually only five penalty notices served! Furthermore the Council’s own targets expected 1,800 people a year to be rewarded for being responsible dog owners, and in fact 2,266 were.

Local MP, Denis Murphy, joined the fray saying “Dog owners are generally responsible people who do clean up after their dogs. I understand and support a ban operating on the new beach from, say, April to the end of September but there is no sensible reason to ban dogs during the winter months when people exercising their dogs will probably be the only people using the beach.
“The dog warden should spend sufficient time patrolling the beach and issue on the spot fines after a period of warning. This action would send out a clear message that Wansbeck District Council will not tolerate anyone not cleaning up after their dogs whether it is on Newbiggin Beach or indeed anywhere else in the district.”

Speaking on behalf of the Kennel Club, Caroline Kisko commented that, “The Kennel Club’s dog owners’ group, KC Dog, has been active in campaigning against this beach ban from the start, and we are not surprised that the figures are incorrect as they always seemed very high. We welcome Councillor Boon’s statistics as evidence that dog owners are on the whole a responsible group. Indeed, as the Council’s annual target of issuing fixed penalty notices was twelve, and yet only five were issued, it seems there are few arguments left to support the Council’s case.
“The Council has pressed ahead with enforcing the ban despite the flimsiness of their evidence and in spite of two petitions against the ban, one with over 1000 signatories. This shows how unresponsive the Council is not only to its electorate, but also to reasoned debate. In light of the new evidence we believe the Council has no choice but to review its decision.”

For more information about KC Dog and its campaign to reverse Wansbeck Council’s decision, please contact / 020-7518 1020.