Should dogs always be on a lead in urban areas?

Jack Russell owner Stephen Emms on why we should all help to tackle irresponsible dog ownership

Pepper recovering in hospital after being torn apart by rottweilers
Pepper recovering in hospital after being attacked by two off-lead rottweilers in 2011. Photo: Stephen Emms
Canine matters are pretty close to our hearts here at Kentishtowner HQ. So I was pleased to hear that Camden Council is proposing that dogs be kept on leads on pavements and in all enclosed urban areas as part of the government’s new laws to deal with anti-social behaviour.

Firstly, some facts. In 2014 there were 1,400 recorded Dangerous Dogs-related offences across London, representing an average of 177 offences per month. With this in mind, the council is asking residents and businesses for their views on introducing new legal controls to tackle irresponsible owners in the borough.

The consultation covers failure to clear up faeces, and whether dogs should be on a lead at all times in public areas, or only in some enclosed spaces. It proposes on-the-spot fines of £100 for offenders.

Pepper on Primrose Hill. Photo: SE
Recovered and healthy again off lead: Pepper on Primrose Hill. Photo: SE
Office mascot Pepper is an 11-year-old Jack Russell who knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of badly-behaved dogs. The walk to work can become an exercise in running the gauntlet as so many owners swagger down a main road, animal in tow, not a lead in sight. And let’s not even get started on the poo that remains un-picked up.


Pepper is particularly sensitive to approaches from other dogs, having been left for dead by two rottweilers five years ago – and then attacked again viciously by two Staffordshire bull terriers a year later. All her attackers were off lead, while she was on hers.

So she – and I – do not appreciate a dog that isn’t on a leash in a small space – and especially on the pavement. If dog-friendly people like us don’t, you can guarantee any parent with young kids doesn’t, either. The culture of dogs off leads in confined and urban areas is simply lose-lose.

The proposed new rules will, of course, still allow healthy and all-important off-lead fun: they would unlikely be enforced on Hampstead Heath and other larger green parks, of course.

But I think most Londoners would be happier if leads were made compulsory on pavements and in smaller leisure spaces – such as Talacre Gardens in Kentish Town.

But would on-the-spot fines really act as a deterrent? Or is there another way to deal with the problem? Have your say below.

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The consultation runs till Wed 3rd August. Head here to take part:

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