Cllr Paul Smith flanked by the dog squad
Published: 14 September, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
THERE were more calls this week to ban professional dog walkers who, it is claimed, cause havoc and mess in Islington’s public squares and open spaces.
It followed a letter in last week’s Tribune by the secretary of Barnsbury Square residents’ association warning that the problem where he lived was getting out of hand.
Residents in Myddelton Square at the Angel also complained this week of a similar problem, where in one case up to eight dogs were let off the lead to be exercised, causing mess and fear to locals as the large animals ran free.
Green Party activist, Caroline Allen, a professional vet in Canonbury, called on dog owners who leave their animals with commercial minders to find out where their pets are being let off the lead for exercise and how many are involved.
“Dog owners have a responsibility to find out where their pets are being exercised,” Ms Allen said. “It should be in a wide open space where the dogs are not going to cause a serious problem. If it’s in the local square and there are too many dogs for one handler then the owner should stop using the service.”
Ms Allen also slammed Islington Council’s 12-week £134,000 “dog squad” trial, which ended in July and was reported to have resulted in just 26 fines.
“This was money down the drain and could have paid for full-time dog wardens,” she added.
“As a vet, I know that the problems of anti-social behaviour with dogs and irresponsible pet ownership go far beyond the unpleasant issue of dog poo and that to address this properly we need to go beyond the superficial.”
Speaking in support of responsible dog owners, Barnsbury resident Terence Jones said their presence often deters criminal activity in public areas.
“The regular presence of people with their dogs has been recognised as deterring drug dealing,” he said. “This public benefit would be lost if they were excluded from the park. I am not a dog owner myself – but from talking to other park regulars who are, it seems that they are just as frustrated with the irresponsible people who believe that social rules don’t apply to them.”
He doubted that toxocariasis – an illness in humans caused by dog mess – was a problem in Islington. “As far as toxocariasis goes, urban foxes – who also leave droppings in the park – are considerably more likely to be infected than are domestic dogs.”
Islington environment chief Labour councillor Paul Smith said the council would be evaluating the results of the “dog squad” exercise in order to decide further measures. He said: “I’m extremely concerned to hear that professional dog walkers are using the borough’s squares and would urge residents who have a problem to ring Contact Islington who will put them in touch with the appropriate department.”