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Inside the ‘stupid’ town that went to war with DOGS… as outraged owners and council clash over ‘dangerous’ £1k fine

EXCITED kids scream in delight on the swings, a woman jogs through crunchy autumn leaves and a gaggle of new mums nurse takeaway coffees while pushing their prams.

At first glance the park in Callington, East Cornwall looks like any other - but on closer inspection you’ll notice there’s one thing missing… dogs.  

Pooches are banned from parks in the ancient town, with outraged dog walkers claiming they have to travel an hour’s walk away to Kit Hill to let pooches off the lead. 

Councillor Penny Ward - who runs a 200-strong dog meet-up group - is campaigning to overturn it. 

She tells The Sun: “I want to make Callington more dog-friendly. 

“I was actually quite shocked when I moved here three years ago from Buckinghamshire that you can’t take your dog to any green spaces in Callington, as all the parks have dog bans on them.

“Where are people supposed to exercise their dogs? 

“The road where I live has no path so dog walkers have to use the road. 

“There are some very heavy lorries trundling down at 60mph which is very dangerous. 

“It does worry me that it’s only a matter of time before one of these heavy lorries knocks over a person or their dog.

“It’s very frustrating as there’s a park a stone’s throw away, yet we can’t access it.”

Her daughter Carly, 34, adds: “There is outrage in the town over this from the majority of residents, even some who don’t have dogs. 

“Could Callington be Britain’s most unwelcoming town for dogs?”

Penny, 63, became a local councillor in February and is the only one of its 12 members against the ban. 

Dog walkers falling foul of the rules face up to a £1,000 fine.

She says: “I have made a proposal to my colleagues at the council to have a fenced off area for dogs in the Launceston Recreation Ground.

“It would keep the children safe and be totally separate from the kids' play area. I have proposed this twice and both times it has been rejected.

“But it would make such a difference to lots of Callington residents, especially those with young children and dogs, those who don’t drive, or those with disabilities."

No plans for change

Callington’s local MP Sheryll Murray surveyed 2,000 residents to see if they would welcome a designated dog area in the recreational ground. 

On Monday the results showed 60 per cent of respondents in favour of the plans. 

But Callington Mayor Peter Watson insists he has no plans to implement it and rubbished the survey’s findings - claiming it held “very little weight”. 

“Over 6,000 people live in Callington and only 200 responded to the survey,” he tells The Sun.

“The ban is the best thing to do for the interest of the parishioners. This is not the time to think about free running dogs in a park."

The ban is the best thing to do for the interest of the parishioners. This is not the time to think about free running dogs in a park

Callington Mayor Peter Watson

Peter says the ban was originally put in place around 13 years ago due to public health concerns surrounding dog mess and attacks. 

“There has never been any objections and it’s been renewed multiple times,” he explains. 

“For the majority of dog owners who are able-bodied there are a large number of green spaces available.

“As a council, you have to take a view about what is the benefit to the majority of parishioners. 

“Unfortunately there’ll always be some people whose personal circumstances may not enable them to enjoy the full facility.”

The news will come as a huge disappointment to dog walkers who have gathered outside Launceston Recreation Ground. 

David Draper, 70, a semi-retired taxi driver, says: “Callington prides itself on being a dog-friendly town but it’s far from the truth”

Pointing at a quarry truck as it trundles past, he adds: “As you can see, big lorries come up this road.

“My dog goes ballistic and is scared of the noise. Penny’s idea is surely a good compromise for everyone?”

Fellow resident Karen Bishop adds: “It’s stupid. At one point we tried to go to another field that’s used by the football club. 

“There was no sign that said dogs weren’t allowed in, but the owners came out and shooed us off shouting, ‘You can’t come here!’ 

“It was like we were aliens or something. We’re just dog walkers!”

Dog trainer Emma Carpenter, 36, a mum-of-three who owns five dogs, says: “Socialising is so important for dogs. 

“People need to be able to let their dogs run free so they can explore and sniff each other.

“On a lead they are very restricted and can’t socialise with one another properly. 

“It is a bit like saying to us that we have got to go to a party but not talk to anyone.

“If dogs can’t exercise properly it can lead to behavioural problems. 

“Also as a mum and a dog owner, I find it unsafe walking along a pavement with them all. 

As a mum and a dog owner, I find it unsafe walking along a pavement with them all

Local dog trainer Emma Carpenter

“I can’t take my kids into the park when I’ve got the dogs as I can’t leave them unattended outside. 

“It would be lovely to let the dogs run free while watching the kids play. I hope the council changes their minds because we desperately need change.”

But not everyone wants the ban lifted. 

In the town centre Mark Howe, 61, a volunteer in a local coffee shop, says: “Kids come first!

“If a child falls over and lands in dog mess, it could cause blindness!

“The total ban needs to stay in place because the designated dog area wouldn’t work. 

“Who is going to pay for a 9ft fence around the park? The council will have to pay to maintain the space which will put up people’s taxes.”

Three elderly ladies on a table next to him agree. 

“The dogs don’t know what they’re doing do they?” one says.

“They go to the toilet where they want and the owners can’t be trusted to clear it up.

"Like Mark says, it’ll cost a fortune to maintain a dog-friendly area, and who would police it?” 

But Penny insists taxpayers wouldn’t have to foot the bill. 

“The cost involved to erect a fence, new gates and signage can be grant funded under the Community Capacity Fund which has funds available for projects such as this,” she explains.

“It would not affect local taxes so residents can be reassured of no cost to them.”

Most of the people I encounter around the town are in favour of having a designated area for dogs in the parks. 

Richard Cannes, 50, who’s medically retired and walks with a stick, says he can’t get to green spaces easily with his King Shepherd, Faith. 

“Not everyone has a car or is able to walk for ages to let their dogs run free," he tells me. “The nearest green space is Kit Hill and it’s an hour away by foot. 

“That's just not viable for people without cars or who are disabled."

Not everyone has a car or is able to walk for ages to let their dogs run free

Richard Cannes, local dog owner

Penny says it’s a “shame” Callington Council is going to ignore the results from the survey. 

“Yes, there are around 6,000 residents which extends much further out but this would only affect people in the immediate vicinity, hence only 2,000 surveys. 

“There have never been many objections to the dog ban being renewed because there has never been any consultation with town residents."

Penny says she is now in touch with Cornwall Council which has the ‘ultimate decision’ on the ban. 

“I have appealed to them to listen to local residents and take on board the public interest and outrage this has caused in raising awareness of Callington being so unfriendly to dogs and the demand for a secure dog park in the town.  

“After a 13 year dog ban in this park it is time for change.”