Councillors respond to Doris’s death

Following her tribute to Doris the swan earlier today, Elizabeth Gomm attended a full council meeting tonight where councillors called for dogs to be kept on leads, but admitted it will be impossible to police.

It was heartening to see Blackpool Council address the plight of the water birds in Stanley Park at tonight’s full council meeting following the tragic death of Doris, a female swan, from a dog attack.

Councillor Shaun Brookes, who represents Marton ward which includes the park, appealed to dog owners to “please, please, keeps your dogs on lead” by the lake and paid tribute to Doris. Councillor Jane Hugo thanked Brambles Wildlife Rescue for caring for the park’s wildlife.

While regret is all well and good, without the promise of enforcement of any orders that might be placed, it’s pretty much worthless.

Appealing for responsible dog ownership may nudge the consciences of some that let their dogs walk off leads, but their will be others who will turn a deaf ear and continue to flout the rules just as they always do.

Brookes said: “I’ve had dozens of emails about the latest attack, as have all the council members, and spoken to dog walkers, Brambles (Wildlife Rescue) and concerned residents about the issue of dogs being off leads in certain areas.

“I know everybody’s been incredibly busy with the issue and I believe well over 1,000 responses have come in for the summer’s PSPO (public spaces protection order) consultation and which are now being worked through. It’s clearly an important, emotive, issue for residents and I just want everybody know we are taking this seriously.

The rules of the park already state dogs should be on leads around the open water

“Doris was not the first attack this year. We’ve also had Jesse the swan alongside several other lake birds who have been injured whilst the consultation has been running.

“Just to be quite clear with everybody watching and in this room, the rules of the park already state dogs should be on leads around the open water, as well as in the play areas, and some of the gardens. That just seems like reasonable common sense to me, given those are the areas where they are most likely to come into contact with wild animals, small children, and other pets.

Councillor Shaun Brookes speaking about the safety of wildlife in Stanley Park in a council meeting tonight, 20th September 2023

“All users should be able to enjoy our park and until your dog has encountered a frightened and/or threatened wild animal or another dog off lead there is no real indication of how it may instinctively respond.”

Councillor Jane Hugo, portfolio holder for climate change which includes parks, said she wanted the many concerned residents upset by the death of Doris to know their concerns have been heard and will be considered as part of the consultation about keeping dogs on leads in certain areas of parks.

She said: “The consultation is now ended and our officers will soon be publishing their recommendations. I don’t have a crystal ball but I’m expecting that there will be overall support for encouraging responsible dog ownership to help avoid incidents, where dogs are causing harm to other dogs, humans and wildlife.

“We have CCTV and we may introduce public space protection orders. It will be impossible to police this 24 hours, seven days a week, so we really are asking residents to co-operate and help us to ensure that dogs are kept under control.

“I’d like to thank the volunteers at Brambles for caring for our injured wildlife and also to our Friends of Stanley Park who are standing shoulder to shoulder with us to keep everyone and everything safe in Stanley Park. Thank you.”

I am grateful that councillors are listening but as someone who walks the park daily to watch, interact with and photograph the wildlife, I will continue to press for any orders the council puts in place for dog controls to be actively enforced with people in place to do this. I will also call for CCTV to be extended to the areas of the lake not covered, and for it to be monitored on a regular basis.

I know that Brambles Wildlife Rescue and others will do the same.

I am by no means a lone voice.

The park has to be made a safer place for the wildlife that lives there and for all those who visit – including dogs.

This can only come about by investing in security, for all our sakes.

Read Elizabeth Gomm’s tribute to Doris the swan here. Main photo: Doris and her 2023 brood by Elizabeth Gomm.

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