Dog walkers say they feel ‘persecuted’ by new rules which will force them to keep their pets on the lead at a country park.
Astbury Mere Trust, which runs Congleton’s Astbury Mere Country Park, is introducing controversial new dog control regulations in the new year, which will mean dogs will have to remain on the lead on about three quarters of the estate.
The trust says it is introducing the new rules after some dogs were allowed by their owners to stray onto fishing pegs owned by Stoke-on-Trent Angling Association. It says the rules are needed to stop dogs getting tangled in fishing wire, or equipment being damaged.
But Warwick Stevenson, aged 67, of Rood Hill – who walks his dogs Herman and Dennis at the country park every day – said: “I feel as though I’m being persecuted for being a dog owner.
“I have never seen any dogs going into the fishing area.
“Ninety-five per cent of people keep their dogs under control. I keep Herman on a lead anyway, but I don’t have to keep Dennis on a lead, he is very well behaved.
“We are responsible, but I have seen people have barbecues in the summer and then leave all their rubbish behind.
“They should look after the dog walkers, because we are here 360 days of the year.”
Lindsay Williams, aged 53, of Rood Hill, said: “It is becoming very Draconian. No-one likes this attitude.”
Lee Dos Reis, aged 42, of West Heath, who walks his dog Rudi at the park, said: “This is the best place in Congleton to exercise your dog – and they have got to be allowed off the lead in order to exercise them.”
Lee’s mother, Linda Dos Reis, aged 65, said: “I’m not happy at all. Most people keep their dogs under control.”
But Lesley Mitchison, of Newcastle Road, Congleton – who walks her dog Thibault, named after cyclist Thibaut Pinot – said: “I always put my dog on the lead when I use that area anyway. A lot of people use the water sports centre and you get a lot of children around there.”
A statement on Astbury Mere Country Park’s Facebook page says: “The Astbury Mere Trust is introducing new dog control regulations at the Astbury Mere Country Park in the new year.
“Dog owners will then be required to keep their dogs on leads on the west, south and eastern areas. Dogs will still have some 20 acres of parkland at the North of the site nearest the Visitor Centre to run around and play in.
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“The Trust accepts that the vast majority of visitors to the park with dogs keep them under control, but unfortunately not all. Some dog owners have been allowing their dogs to go onto the fishing areas belonging to Stoke-on-Trent Angling Association where anglers have a lot of valuable fishing tackle.
“The trust wishes to avoid dogs getting tangled in fishing line or fishing tackle being damaged. Also it is desirable to have dogs on leads in these areas as some small children are afraid of dogs which are currently running free on the footpath.”
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