Dog owners ‘delighted’ as council ditches plans for mandatory leads in Abney Park

Abney Park Cemetery is popular with dog-walkers. Photograph: Haydn Schaare / Abney Park Trust

Dog owners are “delighted” after Hackney Council scrapped plans to make it mandatory for pooches to be on a lead in Abney Park Cemetery.

A new dog control public space protection order (PSPO) comes into force at midnight on 18 March.

It will allow Hackney Council to stop people exercising off-lead dogs in a number of general public areas, including roads, car parks and communal areas on estates.

Several parks and green spaces will also require dogs to be kept on leads, but Abney Park Cemetery is not one of them.

The decision to exclude the popular dog-walking site comes after pressure from campaigners, who reacted with fury when the park was named in a consultation on the PSPO last year.

Actor Maggie Steed with her dogs in Abney Park. Photograph: Abney Dog of the Day

In October, more than 1,600 people, including actor Maggie Steed, signed a petition started by the Abney Park User Dog Group demanding that their pets be able to continue roaming free.

Alexandra Hamit, a spokesperson for the User Group, said it is “delighted that Hackney Council listened”.

She added: “We hope in future that council officers will engage with local dog owners, and all residents who use our parks, in advance of developing proposals, and we thank everyone who stood for our dogs.

“Now we can continue to enjoy Abney Park with the respect and gratitude that we always have.”

The council said the decision to launch the consultation on the PSPO came in response to “considerable correspondence concerning dogs’ behaviour in the borough”.

A Town Hall survey of local residents revealed that 45 per cent said they, someone in their family, or someone they know, had had issues with dog behaviour in the preceding 12 months.

Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas, cabinet member for community safety, said “taking residents’ views into account through consultation is really important”.

“After considering the comments received, we made some changes to the original proposals,” she explained.

The new PSPO will also enable the council to ban dogs from entering BMX tracks, children’s play areas, and sports pitches, among others.

Enforcement officers will also be granted the power to request that dogs are put on a lead if they are not under the control of their owner.

Cllr Fajana-Thomas said: “This is to help ensure that everyone is able to enjoy and feel safe in our parks and public spaces.”

The PSPO will also increase the maximum number of dogs that can be walked by an individual at any one time from four to six.

In its report, the council stated that this is “in recognition of the consultation responses from professional bodies, residents and businesses regarding the impact the change would have had on the cost and provision of dog-walking and daycare businesses, many of whom are small businesses which the council wants to remain financially viable”.

Abney Park Trust was approached for comment.