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Formby councillors intervened to support dog walkers who have been threatened with fines in Alt Road

FORMBY councillors have intervened to support dog walkers who have been threatened with fines in Alt Road playground. Labour councillors Nina Killen and Catie Page were contacted by dog owners who had been told by Sefton Council enforcement officers that they could not walk their dogs across Alt Rd children's play area - even on a lead - to reach the dogs area which is situated alongside. There is only one other route into the dog area which is from the Formby bypass. The confrontation between residents and enforcement officers follows the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) relating to dogs. Local MP Bill Esterson supported the councillors, saying he too has been contacted by residents from across the constituency who have unintentionally breached the new rules for dogs and been hit by fines. Cllr Page said: "We support the new rules for dogs but it is clearly inconceivable that dog walkers who live on the Redgate estate will walk all the way around to the bypass to access the enclosed dog area next to the Alt Rd playground.” "The signs were not really very clear as to what the rules were in the playground. After I raised the issue a temporary 'Dogs on leads area' sign was placed on the playground gate, and I have requested that a larger clearer sign is placed there as a permanent measure.” "Of course ideally we don't want dogs in children's play areas but common sense has to prevail here because the way the dog area has been set up means the main access to it is through the children's playground.” "If dogs are under control on leads they should be allowed through the play area without risking a fine." Cllr Page contacted Sefton Council Environmental Health to clarify the rules relating to the PSPO. They confirmed that dog walkers would be able to walk their dogs through the playground on leads. The PSPO has caused controversy after a spate of fines for behaviour which in the past was allowed, such as having a dog off a lead on a main road, or having dogs on leads longer than 2m. Mr Esterson said he had received an email from a constituent who was furious that her elderly mother had been read her rights before being issued with a fine for having her dog on a lead longer than 2m in a cemetery. Mr Esterson said: "My constituent had her dog on a lead, under control, but because the enforcement officers judged that the lead was more than 2m long she was hit with a £75 fine and suffered the horrifying ordeal of being made to feel like a criminal. My constituent says the signs were not clear, only stating that dogs needed to be kept on the short lead. Apparently a clearer sign has now been put up at the cemetery." The PSPO came into force on July 14, 2017, but enforcement officers only started handing out fines in the last few months. The Council claims that it spent many months on awareness campaigns to make dog owners aware of the new rules. Cllr Killen said: "Although the council has done lots of work to publicise the change, not every dog walker would have seen newspaper articles or posters in various public places. I have had a number of constituents contact me after being fined because their dog was not on a lead, even though their dog was well under their control. They had no idea about the new rules and of course would have adhered to them if they had known. The majority of people are responsible dog owners and are more than happy to adhere to the rules but genuinely were not aware of what they were." The PSPO states that a fixed penalty notice of £75 can be issued where the PSPO is breached. The requirements / restrictions within the Order are listed as: * Failure to remove your dog fouling forthwith. * Restrict the number of dogs that can be walked by one person to a maximum of 6 dogs on or off the lead. * Prohibit dogs from entering enclosed playgrounds. * Prohibit dogs from entering marked or fenced sports pitches during specified times. * Dogs to be kept on a lead within defined picnic sites and family areas in parks. * Dogs to be kept on a lead within all designated carriageways (A and B classified Road) and footways. * Dogs to be kept on a lead within all cemeteries and crematoria. * Dogs to be placed on a lead when directed by an authorised officer to prevent a nuisance or behaviour by the dog likely to cause annoyance or disturbance to members of the public. * Dog leads must be no greater than 2 metres in length when used in the locations specified above. Cllr Killen said: "We are really pleased that Sefton Council has taken the sensible step of allowing dog on leads in the Alt Rd playground while they are passing through to the dog area. As the new rules become more well known we expect that harsh fines will vastly reduce in number. I would urge all dog owners to become familiar with the new law so that they don't breach it unintentionally." PIC: Cllr Catie Page (left) and Cllr Nina Killen at Alt Road playground, Formby, with the dog area to the rear

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