Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has embarked on a public consultation that could see “additional controls” placed over dogs in certain council-owned public places. The consultation will also include the recommendation that a new “free play dog park” be built in Enniskillen where dogs can exercise off their leads.

At a meeting of the Environmental Services Committee held in the Grange Omagh last week there was widespread support for the general idea of the proposed new dog parks, with the building of such a a facility also on the cards in Omagh, but there was little in the way of agreement among Fermanagh councillors, who raised concerns over Henry Street being the proposed site put forward by the Council for the Enniskillen dog park.

Five sites were looked at in the Ennsikillen area with Henry St in Enniskillen the proposed option put forward by the Council. Other sites included in the consultation include: two sites at Derrychara playing fields, Glasmullagh, and an area at the Racecourse Lough.

Kevin O’Gara, Director of Environment and Place at the Council, went over the proposals for those present stating that within the dog park, “we would be proposing that we would have a larger area for the larger dogs and a smaller area, separated, for the smaller dogs, from a safety point of view”.

Mr. O’Gara, when speaking about the preferred option, said: “Henry Street is a short distance from the town and deemed to be a suitable location. We have never operated one of these before and we feel that they would be beneficial.”

Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh speaking about one of the Derrychara options stated that he considered it to be the best proposal stating that at 4,000sqm it was “considerably larger” than the Henry Street site. Councillor O’Cofaigh also said that in relation to the Derrychara site he considered the “centrality to be a positive”.

Councillor Gannon of the SDLP disagreed with this assessment of Derrychara.

“The Enniskillen site (Henry St) seems to me to have several problems. It is very small, it is less than half of a football pitch, and if you can imagine four or five people bringing their dogs at once, it really is not a very large size... I don’t think the Derrychara site is suitable.

“I have personal experience just from last weekend when setting up nets for a football pitch... despite the publicity about dogs not being allowed there, there was a dog on the pitch beside me and doing its business beside me just minutes before the match was supposed to start. And children use that area.”

Councillor Gannon went on to propose that Celtic Park be investigated as a possible dog park site.

Councillor Keith Elliott, DUP, raised the point that the Derrycahra site “floods in winter time so most of it is underwater”.

Councillor Thornton, UUP, also raised the question as to whether or not Derrychara was actually Council property, stating that he understood it to be leased from Devenish Colllege.

Councillor Greene, Sinn Fein, also raised a point about other areas of the county, stating: “I suppose like always I come at this from a slightly different angle. What about the dogs in Skea and Brookeborugh and Irvinestown? Where are they going to walk. That is a semi serious question that I would like an answer to.”

Taking the points in turn Mr. O’Gara said that the Council had felt a dog park adjacent to football pitches was not suitable and that it was true that the ground did flood easily.

In response to Councillor Greene he stated.

“It is not envisaged that we would have dog parks everywhere, and certainly out in the country it is not the same problem as a big built up area. We have limited resources and we must target them.”

Returning to Councillor Gannon’s point on Celtic Park, Mr O’Gara said that the Council did not look at Celtic park as an option but that it could look into it further.

The consultation process regarding the proposed Dog Control Orders will afford the general public the opportunity to have their say on the Council’s proposals to promote continued responsible dog ownership and will complement its existing Green Dog Walker Scheme.

Respondents will also have an opportunity to comment on the proposals for dedicated dog parks for Enniskillen and Omagh.

The public consultation began this week and will run until Friday 18 October 2019. Interested parties will be able to give their views at drop-in sessions which will take place at Omagh Leisure Complex and Fermanagh Lakeland Forum during the first week of October. Further details of times and dates will follow.

An online survey will also be available for completion on the Council’s website or written submissions can also be forwarded to the Licensing Department, Strule House, 16 High Street, Omagh or by email at dogcontrol@fermanaghomagh.com.