DOG control legislation, an issue that generated considerable public debate when it was being considered by Larne Borough Council, has now been agreed by the local authority.
When the council first consulted, in May last year, on a proposal to ban dogs from bathing beaches, there was an outcry from dog owners, as well as a lesser number of people supporting the move, citing the potential dangers of dogs being allowed to exercise off the lead and incidents of fouling. Responses to the council and letters to the Larne Times reflected public interest in the legislation.
At the end of the consultation period in September, 2012 it was clear that the majority of respondents opposed the exclusion of dogs from Carnlough, Ballygally and Browns Bay beaches during the bathing season (April 1-September 30).
It was decided to consult on a new proposal, requiring that owners visiting the beaches between 11am and 6pm from June 1-August 31 and on public holidays must keep dogs on a lead. This time, only three responses were received: two calling for greater control of dogs; the other commending the amended proposal.
At its monthly meeting, the council resolved to make a Dog Control Order accordingly. Proposing, Cllr Mark McKinty asked that it be advertised as widely as possible and suggested that details be issued with dog licence reminders. Cllr Drew Niblock, seconding, learned from officers that dog licence revenue is £24,000 per annum.
It was also reported that among Northern Ireland councils, Larne has the second-highest number of dog licences per head of population, which members agreed showed a proactive approach by the environmental services team.
In response to Cllr Brian Dunn, director of environmental services Philip Thompson indicated that a detailed survey is to be conducted in March to identify unlicensed dogs. He explained that officials can now access the dog licensing database on handheld devices when out and about in the borough.
The officer added that owners of unlicensed dogs are subject to an £80 fixed-penalty notice.