COUNCILLORS in North Devon have taken the “less draconian” option of limiting the amount of dogs that can be walked by one person at any time to six, despite public support for half that number.

Under new dog control rules, which were unanimously supported by North Devon Council’s strategy and resources committee, three of the six dogs must be on leads.

Most people who took part in a public consultation supported capping the number of dogs being walked to three, but councillors were told that six was in line with other authorities.

“People were in favour of us being much stricter,” said environmental health officer Daryl Littlejohns. 

“The majority think three dogs is enough, but we think six is less draconian and appropriate after looking at other authorities and best practice.”

Professional dog walkers will be encouraged to sign up to a voluntary code of practice and carry ID which could be used as a defence if a complaint is made against them.

“We are taking a pragmatic approach,” said the officer. “Professional dog walkers in the area are quite happy about what we have proposed and are creating an alliance. I thought that was quite encouraging.”

North Devon Council has added to its dog control orders as part of a public space protection order (PSPO) coming up for renewal at the end of the month. 

It will impose temporary restrictions of dogs on leads or dog bans in dog-fouling “hotspots” following consultation with parish and town councils.

The rules address anti-social behaviour by irresponsible dog owners and respond to rapid growth in the unregulated dog-walking industry.

In addition, new “paw-print” signs will refer to dog control restrictions on council-owned land and will also be available to private landowners.

Dogs will continue to be banned from children’s play areas, designated sports pitches, Croyde and Combe Martin beaches between May and September, land used as high tide roosting sites in winter, plus rules around dog-fouling and length of leads.

The public seems to support the plans. Cllr Caroline Leaver (Lib Dem, Barnstaple South) said most people who had dogs were responsible and there is a degree of self-policing already.

“If someone doesn’t pick up after their dog, someone will say something to them. I certainly do,” she said.

Cllr Pru Maskell (Con, Braunton West) said signs should go up at holiday parks which allowed dogs as tourists might not be aware of the rules.

Cllr David Worden (Lib Dem, South Molton) said things had changed in the last 10 years and in his ward, dog-fouling on pavements had reduced. 

“These rules applied to the few who are not being responsible,” he said.

Officers will continue to put coloured spray around patches of dog fouling to identify hotspots but said the policy is not to pick it up, it was more a “name and shame” approach.

Alison Stephenson