Published: 06:00, 12 February 2021
| Updated: 16:55, 12 February 2021
Calls for dog owners to keep their pets on leads along a stretch of seafront inhabited by protected birds have sparked an angry backlash.
Canterbury city council is being urged to enforce new rules in an area of wetland and a small length of the beach near Long Rock in Swalecliffe.
Reports to the authority suggest there have been instances of dogs off leads “chasing and, in some cases, injuring protected birds and animal species”.
The area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Ramsar site, which is a wetland of international importance, particularly for its role as a waterfowl habitat.
Now, the authority is asking for feedback on the idea of enforcing lead use along the stretch as part of a consultation on its Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), which govern rules around dog control, among other things.
Initial responses have thrown up “substantial suggestions” that dogs should be made to wear leads.
Seasalter councillor and dog owner Ashley Clark backs the idea.
“Unfortunately, there have been a number of individuals who have acted despicably,” he said.
“From the reports we had, people are just letting their dogs go willy-nilly all over the place, flushing out egrets and various other birds. It’s just unacceptable behaviour.
“Unfortunately the majority of dog owners are probably responsible, but you’ve got people that are actively charging around in the zone mainly behind the beach, and also on the actual beach itself.
“But between Reculver and Graveney there are 17 miles of coast where you can take your dog without restriction.”
Many dog owners have criticised the suggestion.
Among them is Tankerton resident Andrew McGuinness, who branded it “a terrible idea”. “The question is whether off-the-lead dogs alter habitat and wildlife,” he said.
“As far as I know there is only personal anecdote, but no scientific proof that an off-the-lead dog has altered either of these.
“Most of them are well-behaved off the lead.
“I live close by and the only problem I’ve really experienced in more than 10 years in the (proposed) area is the trouble with cyclists who won’t dismount or use designated routes.
“This sort of Draconian suggestion is a sad measure of where ‘community’ has gone in recent times.
“At a time of Covid, extended lockdown and limited opportunities to exercise outdoors alongside one’s dog, why not clamp the dog to its owner’s leg and be done with it?”
Another dog owner added: “A few people allowing their dogs to run riot, causing the larger responsible people and dogs to suffer the consequences.
“I’m not sure what good it will do...the irresponsible (people) who caused the problem in the first place will take no notice.”
Comment on the consultation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on February 28.