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DOG-WALKERS could earn themselves a criminal record if they allow their dogs off their leads on Canvey Island’s beaches next summer.
Castle Point Council is to decide this week whether to impose a new rule forcing dog-walkers to keep their pets on leashes at the seafront.
The council’s cabinet will meet this Wednesday, October 16, to discuss a proposal to obtain and enforce a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).
If imposed, as council officers are recommending, all dogs would have to be kept on leads on Canvey’s beaches between April 1 and September 30 each year.
PSPOs remain in place for up to three years, but a three-year extension can then be granted.
Breaching a PSPO is a criminal offence, but that offence can be ‘discharged’ by paying a £100 fixed penalty notice.
A council report, to be considered at Wednesday’s meeting, said: “Where fines are unpaid, it is essential that unless the notice is cancelled because it has been inappropriately served, that prosecution is pursued.
“If convicted, the culprit will have a criminal record and will most likely receive a fine greater than the value of the original fixed penalty notice.”
The cabinet is also being asked to make a bid for funding, for ‘additional enforcement resource’ which would be ‘necessary to ensure compliance’.
The new enforcement staff would also be used to ‘enforce other environmental crimes’.
The council report suggests hiring two enforcement officers – one full-time and one part-time – at a cost of approximately £62,600 per year.
It suggests that additional in-house staff may also be needed to cope with the administration work generated by ‘an increased number of fixed penalty notices’ being issued for breaches of the order.
The council had originally considered banning dogs from the beach altogether, but decided late last year to instead consult residents over a proposed rule requiring all dogs to be kept on leads.
That consultation drew 285 responses, of which 54 per cent said dogs should be kept on leads, whilst 46 per cent said they should not.
*The proposal will be debated by councillors in a public meeting at the council offices in Kiln Road, Benfleet, at 7pm on Wednesday.