Dog owners in Hackney are facing more criticism for the behaviour of their pets, and not just around humans, but around trees.
Hackney council is urging owners to be vigilant, after an increase in the amount of “irreversible damage” to trees caused by dogs over the last couple of years.
There is particular concern around the biting and scratching of tree trunks, and for branches being pulled and broken off for dogs to bite. “Wounds” to a tree can leave it vulnerable to infection and prevent sap flowing to the shoots and leaves, eventually killing the tree.
The council describes the cost of removing and replacing damaged trees as “huge”. Last year, it fenced in 29 trees in Hackney Downs, where it claims the problem is particularly bad.
Councillor Jonathan McShane, Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture, says:
“Some dog owners may believe they are doing their pet good by exercising their jaws, teeth or claws and not realise the long term damage they are doing to the trees. As well as affecting their individual appearance, if trees are cut down, it ruins the patterns of well established trees that have been growing for decades. I urge all dog owners to act responsibly with their dogs and consider how their actions can harm the environment.”
It comes less than a year after the council announced it was bringing in new Dog Control Orders, similar to Anti-Social Behaviour Orders for humans. These include “dog exclusion” orders, where dogs are completely banned, as well as “dogs on leads” orders, which would prevent owners from letting their dogs off leads in certain areas.
Under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, Local Authorities have the power to serve orders to tackle dog-related issues. This includes owners who don’t pick up their dog’s mess, for which there is an £80 fixed penalty, with a maximum fine of £1,000 if prosecuted.
The Dog Control Orders (DCOs) came into force in April this year, but have been criticised because of a lack of enforcement; without a warden or police presence in the park, the council relies on members of the public to report bad behaviour.
However, Hackney council insists that officers will spend more time on the streets enforcing the DCOs, and is also offering free training sessions to promote responsible dog ownership, in partnership with the Dogs Trust.
Louise Glazebrook is a dog behaviourist and trainer, who also owns The Darling Dog Company. She regularly runs training classes on responsible dog ownership with the Dogs Trust in London:
Responsible dog ownership in the capital is becoming a more contentious issue in light of new tougher sentencing guidelines for owners of dangerous dogs. The Sentencing Council, who issued the guidelines just days ago, says more offenders “will face jail sentences”.
“More will get community orders and fewer will receive discharge… It will also help courts make the best use of their powers so that irresponsible owners who put the public at risk can be banned from keeping dogs, genuinely dangerous dogs can be put down, and compensation can be paid to victims.”
The new guidelines also mean that the class of “vulnerable victim” will now include elderly people and those with disabilities, as well as children. Typically the maximum jail sentence for allowing an animal to cause injury is 12 months, but the new guidelines recommend 18 months.
This follows a series of high-profile dog attacks in recent years, including the case of John-Paul Massey, aged 4, and Barbara Williams, aged 52, who both died from their injuries.
East London Lines spoke to dog owners in Hackney to find out what they thought of the new, tougher sentences:
The new sentencing guidelines will come into full effect from 20th August.
Hackney Council is running a number of ‘Responsible Dog Ownership Training Sessions‘ across the borough.
For more information on dog control and animal services:
The Hackney Animal Warden Service: 020 8356 6688
Dogs Trust City Dogs Hotline: 07539 863407
For more information relating to Dog Control Orders: 020 8356 4839