Dogs may soon be banned from certain green spaces

The council have designated several locations in the PSPO draft where dogs must be kept on leashes. Photo: Gareth Weeks

Lewisham Council is running an eight-week consultation with locals about the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to address dog-related antisocial behaviours and other issues across the borough.

If plans for the order are authorised, it will lead to stricter rules for dog owners across the borough through the enforcement of ‘dog on a lead’, ‘maximum number of dogs’ and ‘dog exclusion’ zones.

The council’s Evidence Pack for the PSPO highlights that the MPS recorded 91 dog attack incidents in Lewisham in the 12 months leading to September 2022, a 50% increase from the previous 12 months.

It also uncovered that there were 1,159 complaints relating to dog fouling between the January 2020 and September 2022 period, with a sharp uprise in 2021.

A Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), which gives police and council officers powers to eradicate specific antisocial behaviours affecting the quality of life, can be imposed by councils after consultation with relevant parties including police and residents.

Lewisham Mayor and Cabinet approved plans for a PSPO last November and it is now undergoing consultations with the public which began on February 27 and are due to end by April 30.

Following the 2021 residents’ survey, one in four residents said that crime and anti-social behaviour should be the prime focus of the council after the pandemic.

There has been a high volume of complaints being made to police, council members, Registered Social Landlords and Housing Associations regarding issues related to public safety and nuisance. In response to the local concerns about various public nuisances, the PSPO has been drafted.

The proposed order will cover the following issues in the borough

  • Consumption of drugs and psychoactive substances
  • Alcohol-related antisocial behaviour and disorder
  • Public urination and defecation
  • Illegal camp sites
  • Dog-related antisocial behaviours in public spaces and parks, such as animal attacks, dog related accidents and dog waste left on streets/pavements
  • Amplified music or speech in open public spaces

Lewisham Councillor Chris Barnham, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Community Safety said: “The aim is to make sure that we’re all able to enjoy our parks and public spaces safely. Most of our residents behave with respect and their environment, but people have told us they’re concerned about some forms of antisocial behaviour spoiling public spaces.”

Nathan Thompson, Manager of Lewisham’s Environmental Crime Enforcement Team, explained on Twitter why a PSPO would be beneficial.

A PSPO is undertaken through the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and can be in force for up to three years from when it is implemented.

If a person is found to be in breach of the PSPO conditions, they may be issued with a £100 Fixed Penalty Notice and will have 14 days to pay the fine.

Persistent breaches of the order may escalate towards a Community Protection Notice, a Criminal Behavioural Notice Order or a Civil Injunction. In some cases, this might result in an unlimited fine or imprisonment. Failure to oblige with the order if prosecuted is an offence that could result in a £1000 fine.

What does this mean for dog owners?

There will be restricted areas where people will not be allowed to walk their dogs, including children’s play areas, nature reserves, cemeteries, tennis courts, ball courts, outdoor gyms and other recreational spaces. The conditions of a new PSPO will also mean that people will no longer be permitted to control more than four dogs at once in a public place.

A Dog’s Trust spokesperson told ELL: “It’s so important that dogs are given plenty of opportunity to exercise on, and where appropriate off lead in public spaces. We understand that local authorities want to ensure that dogs in their community are looked after responsibly so that public spaces can be enjoyed by everyone, but we believe that the vast majority of dog owners are responsible, and that the majority of dogs are well-behaved.”

Dog’s Trust encourage dog owners to seek professional training on how to control their pets that often misbehave. Their dog school offer classes about teaching your dog how to meet and greet other dogs politely, walk nicely on the lead, come back when called and how to understand your dog’s body language.

The Dog’s Trust spokesperson added: “When it comes to Public Space Protection Orders, we do try to advise local authorities on the best approach as it is important, we find a solution that does not penalise responsible dog owners and dog walkers who own and walk multiple dogs, but instead, targets irresponsible owners and proactively addresses anti-social behaviours, including dog fouling.”

The decision will be finalised after consultations end and survey results are reported to the Mayor and Cabinet.

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