Dog Owners: Equality Impact Assessment

Let me introduce myself to those who may not know me, I’m Linda and since November 2017 I met and talked to thousands of people who visit Weymouth, Portland, Dorchester, Poundbury, Bridport, and West Bay.

It all started one cold wet and windy day on Weymouth Beach, as I walked along with my two dogs Mollie and Bruce other dog walkers asked “where can I take my dog inside”

I pointed out many places but realised as I walked away as a local I knew all these places but it was much harder for other.

During a discussion a sticker was suggested after much discussion and internet search Barry found one we felt really showed you where dogs were welcome. At the start of December stickers in hand I started to visit each business I knew to be dog friendly, allowing dogs inside with their well behaved owners.

Over the next few weeks I soon discovered Weymouth and Portland was extremely dog friendly, and I needed to order more stickers. Soon other areas where asking for our stickers and our accommodation providers, shops and all types of businesses asked for them. It involved a lot of traveling, cups of coffee, bowls of soup, sandwiches and cake. We also found businesses welcome the chance to share their business on our Facebook Page DogFriendly.Social.

Since the extended beach ban they found their businesses had suffered, they relied on visitors during low and Mid-season, dog walkers don’t care about the weather, neither do their dogs. Unfortunately the council decided to use a private enforcement agency, not for the reason most people thought, to identify dog poo offenders but to fine people for walking on the empty beach.

You can imagine my reaction when a couple who walked onto the decked area of one of the beach cafe who then walked six steps onto the beach to play ball with their well behaved dog was approached by one of the enforcement officer. Their dog who was under close control on an empty beach was immediately put on its lead. I ran from the Pavilion Dog Exercise Area (also the events area) towards the couple trying to attract their attention.

As i approached the officer, I asked hm to film my words, “I asked did you ask this couple if they are on holiday, Did they know they needed to walk twenty paces until they were, Would they like to move six paces back onto the decking then walk along to the Dog area. He refused to answer my questions and continued to issue the fine. The young couple were on holiday, they had checked the internet the Dorset site which showed the old date of May1st to September 30th, had selected Weymouth as the perfect location because it was part of the Jurassic coastline they were walking, had intended to stay in the area, and also return at a later date to walk around Portland and along the Chesil Bank. Coming from London on the train, the beach was their first stop before having a meal and booking into their hotel.

They did make their way to the council offices to appeal and unfortunately I never saw them again.

After we challenge the extended ban in January 2017 we realised the Equality Impact Assessment Had not been correctly assessed, and it was only 2018 when a full assessment took place.

The beach office has installed a ramp in the dog exercise area at the Pavilion End, we have plastic extensions which travel along the wall leaving disabled people stranded without site of the water and their family enjoying the beach. The other unrestricted area starts at the stone groyne Greenhill and doesn’t afford access for anyone who has mobility problems, visually impaired, small children or the older person. Has no access to Blue Badge parking, toilets bins or fresh water.

All this is recognised in the new EIA, and I must say I was patiently waiting for the new consultation due earlier this year, and delayed due to the New Weymouth Town Council being involved.

We believed the new consultation would go ahead about now, and being a stakeholder due to presenting a petition to challenge the undemocratic figures used to implement this ban, people who completed the consultation in 2016 never wanted the date extended. The signage which makes no mention of people who are disabled in wheelchairs or with a mobility problem being able to access the beach, or those with assistant dogs. They are mentioned in EIA of 2018 but no attempt has been made to notify the public.

We are now about to see another delay to this consultation, which will continue to discriminate against those who have disabilities, or a hidden illness and who have dogs for support. I myself suffer from anxiety, depression and panic attacks, I know without my dogs I would have remained trapped inside my house for many more years. They gave me back my independence.

In June this year by the Pier Bandstand I noticed a young father with his assistance dog, his young child being pushed along by his mother. I asked him why he hadn’t accessed the beach at the ramp by the shepherds hut and he said he didn’t want to be fined. He explained his family always came to Weymouth, when he was sixteen he had been involved in an accident which left him paralysed from the waste down. He explained when he first had his accident his dad had carried him down to the waters-edge where he could again be independent, I asked him how he would get to the water edge at the Pavilion End and he explained he couldn’t, his mother would take his little boy to play on the sand and in the water, he would stay at the top of the beach and play with his dog, his assistance dog. Like many owners of assistance dogs they like to give them time just to be a dog

Now we address the issue of dog poo and urine, NHS guidelines need to be read, dog owners have become more aware of the impact of litter left by themselves or others. We as a page and group promote responsible dog ownership, we respect other peoples rights not to like or want dogs near them. However we suffer abuse and are often treated as second class citizens just because we would like to enjoy the beach when its empty, litter pick the beach during the stormy seasons and meet like minded people while supporting our bushiness.

Canine Partner confirm all people with Assistance dogs are allowed in any part of the beach.

Dog Owner/Walker

 

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