Select Committee on Committee on the London Local Authorities Bill Minutes of Evidence


Evidence before the Committee (Questions 440-459)

WEDNESDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 2003

440.  This is bottom right of the second one?

(Mr Stratton) Yes, single man, hat on head.

441.  CHAIRMAN: Wearing a cowboy hat.

(Mr Stratton) Wearing the cowboy hat with the bulk of his dogs, or certainly half of his dogs, on leads. I suspect the other four, although I cannot be certain, are probably those that he owns. He is a very responsible dog-walker. If you go back a page and look at the first picture, you will find a group of dog-walkers who have got together and they are walking a very large number of dogs. On the other side of the page you see a typical canalising area where you have got a fence down one side, the dog-walkers walking down the road, again altogether, with little or no consideration for the other park users. If people wanted to cycle up there, to walk up there, bring their own dog up there, they would be canalised and have to take on this group of dogs. I think each picture tells a story of its own and you see responsible and less responsible dog owners. What you do see are large groups of dogs, some on leads, some off leads, which to many people would be frightening. If I can just add, you cannot stage manage a photograph and most of these are taken from a short distance away. When you go out to photograph, what you are really after just is not there and you have to spend a long time, and a long time was spent, trying to get these pictures together. It is constant and every day that they are out there. If you look at the first picture on the third page, to get the dogs in a nice tidy group like that and not running everywhere is actually quite difficult. We do not have the lenses or the capability to show 40 dogs running amok on a sports field.

442.  MR CLARKSON: Thank you, Mr Stratton.

Cross-examined by MR MUNDY

443.  MR MUNDY: Good afternoon, sir. My name is David Mundy representing the Kennel Club and Pet Care Trust. I have a number of questions for Mr Stratton. Since we have the document open can I take you, first of all, to the photographs. I am puzzled. Perhaps, first of all, you would like to point out the specific photographs that give an indication that there is irresponsible dog control being undertaken as evidenced by these photos?

(Mr Stratton) If we have a look at the first page, first photograph, what you can see there is a group of five people with a large number of dogs.

444.  MR BLUNT: Six, I think.

(Mr Stratton) Six people.

445.  MR MUNDY: How many dogs are there? Can you roughly estimate that?

(Mr Stratton) The ones you can actually see, perhaps 20.

446.  Presumably this photograph is trying to encapsulate all the dogs that are being walked by those individuals?

(Mr Stratton) That is right. You will see on the one side there is a fence, on the side you cannot see there is a knoll, and they are going down one of the very few routes that you can pass down altogether to the athletics track, casual play area, the tennis courts, a route that is taken very regularly by a very large number of people to get down to those sporting facilities.

447.  Could I suggest to you that in relation to that photograph in particular there are approximately six people and I am not sure how many dogs, perhaps ten, a maximum of 12, this is an example of multiple dog-walking, is it not? Those dog-walkers have probably got a maximum of two dogs under their control. Do they look as if they are out of control, those animals?

(Mr Stratton) I am not saying those dogs are out of control. I think you asked me to point out various things about dog-walkers. I would say that is not responsible dog-walking because I believe if the dog-walkers were responsible they would have split up and they would not have left all those dogs together and they would have allowed people to walk up that single path, with the knoll on one side and fence on the other, and gone through singly rather than as a very large group.

448.  Can I take you to the second photograph, the second one on the right of that page. I think that is the one you described as an example of canalising, is that right?

(Mr Stratton) Yes.

449.  I do not quite follow that. Can you explain what you mean by that?

(Mr Stratton) On the right-hand side of that picture there is a fence, a temporary fence as it happens because there is restoration work going on in the park. That group of people are about to pass down the passage in photograph one. That group of people clearly, it seems to me, met up there and are now chattering and about to embark on their walk around the park and go down that narrow defile. If people want to pass them, because they are - I say blocking the route - right across the route, they are canalised. That fence, as I just explained, on the right-hand side has a similar constraint on the left-hand side, the meadow. You can see the meadow in the other picture. There is not a lot of room there for people.

450.  I do not think one can actually infer that from that photograph. It looks to me as if there is a relatively wide open walkway to the left there which people can pass down. I find that difficult to understand as an example of canalising as such.

(Mr Stratton) But perhaps knowledge of the park is my advantage over you.

451.  Could I just confirm, which park is this?

(Mr Stratton) That is Battersea Park.

452.  Could you confirm, were these photographs taken on the same day?

(Mr Stratton) The top two were, the others I cannot tell you, you would have to ask another person who is with me.

453.  Can I then take you to the bottom two photographs on that page. Again, I would like some information in relation to certainly the one on the right as to what that is trying to suggest.

(Mr Stratton) I suspect that the person who took the photograph has not got it altogether, he is slightly off-track.

454.  In that case can we turn to the next page and take the top right-hand corner. Can you explain to me what that photograph is?

(Mr Stratton) The one single dog? That is probably a stray.

455.  It is wearing a collar, I can see.

(Mr Stratton) It is certainly wearing a collar.

456.  I fail to understand what that is trying to infer or imply in terms of evidence suggesting that there is irresponsible dog-walking. Perhaps we could go back to the one on the left. Could you explain what that red object is in the photograph?

(Mr Stratton) That is a litter bin. It is a fouling bin.

457.  Would it be surprising that responsible dog owners would take their dogs in that sort of direction if they were trying to use that bin for the right purpose? Would you expect to see them collected around there?

(Mr Stratton) Not particularly. I am not saying that the dog owners do not pick up, they do, but if you are taking ten dogs you have got to have pretty sharp eyes to keep track of all the dogs. Certainly these people do pick up.

458.  Thank you. Again, on the bottom two photographs on those pages there, you have explained the one on the right, I think. I must say in relation to those photographs and the ones on the next page, it seems to me these are evidence of people walking dogs, more than individual dogs in some circumstances, in a responsible way, in a way that has regard to the other users of the park in a sensitive way, and I would have said are examples of responsible dog-walking rather than the opposite. Am I wrong in drawing that conclusion?

(Mr Stratton) The photographs may well show that they are responsible dog owners. My point is that the dogs have all come together, they have not observed the code of conduct. The dogs in large numbers like this, particularly in what I explained is a canalised area, do not pose a threat but appear threatening to many people. Battersea Park, Wandsworth Common, all our other parks and open spaces, are not there purely for the exercise of dogs by professional dog-walkers, they are there for people to enjoy the open space.

459.  They are also there for private dog owners to walk their dogs.

(Mr Stratton) Absolutely right.


 
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