Commonsense has prevailed in a victory for dog owners. Dog owners backed by the Kennel Club successfully challenged a draconian Public Spaces Protection Order in Richmond, which could have seen dog owners criminalised if their dogs so much as urinated whilst out on a walk.
The landmark decision, which will help to protect dog owners up and down the country, comes after the use of PSPOs came into the spotlight this week when Ealing Council used a PSPO to ban protestors outside an abortion clinic.
The judgement, which was handed down on 12 April at the High Court in the case of Summers v London Borough Of Richmond Upon Thames, in which Ms Summers was supported by the Kennel Club, saw two of the elements of the Public Space Protection Order that would have compromised dog owner access to public spaces quashed. It is the first example of a Public Spaces Protection Order being successfully challenged in the High Court.
The parts of the order which were successfully challenged and which were quashed included that a person could be found guilty of an offence if their dog ‘causes an annoyance to another person or animal’ or ‘causes damage to any Council structure, equipment, tree, turf or other Council property’, which could include damage to grass from urination.
The order setting a limit on the number of dogs that can be walked by one person at any one time to a maximum of four dogs, was upheld. There will however be 18 licences available for borough-based businesses who wish to walk up to six dogs.
Public Spaces Protection Orders were introduced in 2013, giving local authorities the power to issue blanket bans on certain activities from designated areas with minimal consultation, which has led to dog walking bans and severe restrictions in hundreds of parks and open spaces since their inception.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “We believe that this is the first time that a Public Spaces Protection Order has been successfully challenged in a court of law and it is a major victory that will help to protect responsible dog owners up and down the country.
“The proposals in Richmond, if successful, would have given the council the right to prosecute dog owners whose dogs urinated on their walk, as this could be interpreted as ‘damage to council property or turf’, or if a non-dog lover reported feeling annoyed by the presence of a dog in a public space, even if that dog had behaved impeccably.
“It is another example of over-zealous councils using their powers to unfairly penalise dog owners and to freeze them out of public spaces, so this victory not only protects dog walkers in Richmond but sets a precedent to protect dogs across the UK. We hope it sends a strong message to other councils to use their powers sensibly to tackle irresponsible dog ownership, rather than trying to stop responsible owners from enjoying their right to freely exercise their dogs.”