Committee rejects Ballintoy dog ban bid

Officials uncover scant evidence of out-of-control pets

Peter Winter


Peter Winter


Saturday 25 June 2022 10:26

COUNCILLORS have rejected calls for a dog ban at a North Coast beauty spot, despite claims that sheep have been killed “on several occasions.”
Request for a Dog Control Order came from the owner of land between Ballintoy and Whitepark Bay accessible by a public right of way.
The matter was raised on his behalf earlier this year by two local councillors, Joan Baird and Padraig McShane.
In their Notice of Motion, the pair claimed the right of way is causing “considerable hardship” for the sheep farmer because of “constant dog attacks” by irresponsible pet owners who constantly allow their dogs to run wild.
Cllrs Baird and McShane said the council has failed to take any action to stop the “cruel” attacks other than erecting signage.
Their solution was a Dog Control Order banning dogs entirely from the area.
The outcome of the debate was a deferral of action until further monitoring had been carried out.
And on Tuesday, the inspectors’ conclusions were delivered to members of the council's Environmental Services Committee.
Councillors heard officials visited the site 37 times in February and and a further 10 times in May “when there was potential for increased use by the public and their dogs in good weather.”
And though dogs were seen “not under control” on six occasions, not once was livestock present.
In fact, sheep were grazing only six times during 47 visits and any dog present on those occasions was under control.
Members did however hear that “an elected member” had visited the site on April 14 and saw three walkers with animals off leads and livestock present. One dog was seen attempting to chase sheep but was restrained by its owner.
Nevertheless, councillors were told the recommendation from officers was to reject the request for a dog ban.
It was an outcome Cllr Baird described as “disappointing.”
She said the council relied on the good will of the farmer whose land was crossed by this crucial section of the world famous Causeway Coastal path.
“If we lose that good will I wouldn't like to think what would happen,” added the councillor.
She said the topography did not allow him to keep an eye on his sheep.
“He will only find that his sheep have been attacked when he's checking them, perhaps in late evening or early morning. When finds some of them dead – and that has happened on several occasions.”
Alderman Baird sad the couple of signs erected by the council were “not sufficient in any which way.”
She concluded: “The council's failure to act here sends a very wrong message to other land owners or farmers.”
Despite her plea, Alderman Baird's attempt to reverse the recommendation was rejected by nine votes to three.
The DUP's Alan McLean pointed out laws already existed to regulate dogs around livestock which, he suggested, could be better enforced around Ballintoy.
“A few fines handed out would start to ease the problem,” he said.
But, he added: “It's not fair to punish responsible dog owners.”

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