Calls to enforce seasonal dog ban on Southwold beach
09:56 08 April 2014
Action is being called for to enforce the dog ban on Southwold beach.
The Southwold and Reydon Society has set up a working group to look at the issue after complaints that a lack of signs to highlight the restriction was causing confusion – and potential conflict.
The group is also examining ways to encourage more dog owners to clean up after their pets after the issue of fouling in the town and neighbouring Reydon was raised in the Southwold Town Plan.
Mischa Lester, who runs Foxtail Lily in High Street and is also a dog owner, is leading the working group.
She said locals regularly took people to task for allowing their dogs on the beach during the peak season but many visitors were simply not aware of the ban because there were no signs.
“If we don’t tell people what the rules are then we can’t expect them to know by osmosis,” she said. “From a society point of view, and as a dog owner, we are not saying we don’t want people to bring their dogs to Southwold. The place is awash with dogs in high season and it is a very dog-friendly place.
“It is more about education and making people aware of where you can and can’t walk your dog.”
Under a Waveney District Council bylaw, dogs are not allowed on the beach between the northern end of the promenade and the East Street steps between May 1 and September 30.
At other times, they must be kept on a lead within the restricted area.
Dogs are allowed off the lead on the beach between the East Street and the harbour all year round.
Mrs Lester said the working group wanted to see metal signs clearly advertising the restrictions at every entrance to the beach, and the information painted on the promenade.
Waveney councillors Sue Allen and Michael Ladd, who are also members of the town council, completed a fact-finding walk along the seafront last week with Waveney Norse and district council representatives.
Mr Ladd said he had struggled to find any signs advertising the dog ban and had secured a commitment from Waveney to install more.
Mrs Lester said dog fouling was another major concern as footpaths in Reydon and Southwold were littered with mess, including bagged waste that had been left on the ground or hanging from bushes.
The Southwold and Reydon Society handed out 10,000 dog bags last year and Mrs Lester said the working group would look at other ways of encouraging people to pick up their pets’ mess.
This could include installing more dog waste bins and providing “doggie bag” dispensers.
Mrs Lester added: “As a society we are saying to the responsible bodies, whether it is the town council or the district council, that we think this is important and we want you to look at it. We absolutely think there are things that can be done and we will offer whatever help and assistance we can to make that go forward.”
Emma Taylor, principal vet at Fromus Veterinary Group’s Southwold clinic, said her customers regularly complained about dog fouling.
She said dog faeces could contain toxocara canis, also known as dog roundworm, which posed serious health risks to adults and children, especially the elderly or anyone with a weakened immune system.
The parasite can cause changes in the back of the eye, liver and lungs and lead to blindness.
“This is something I feel quite passionate about,” she said. “If you pick up poo, bag it and put it in the bin you are breaking the life cycle and the number of eggs being left around where children are playing will be so much lower.”
In February, Waveney councillors agreed to explore proposals to set up dog mess and litter patrols across the district, with a strong possibility these would come in to force. Enforcement officers would issue fines to dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets and to people who thoughtlessly drop litter.
A Waveney spokesman said the council was aware some dog owners ignored the regulations regarding dogs on beaches. He said some signs were already in place, there was detailed information on the council’s website and there were also plans to print a leaflet to remind people what was allowed.
He added: “Dog owners should also know how unhygienic it is to not clear up after their pets and it is very disappointing that many ignore this basic responsibility.
“The Dog Control Order makes it illegal to fail to clear up after your dog if it fouls any land that is open to the air and to which the public have access. Inconsiderate dog owners could face a fixed penalty fine, of £80 or a fine of up to £1000 if there is a conviction in the courts.”