A dog owner says that “Britain’s most unwelcoming town for dogs” could be in Cornwall.
Carly Ward is helping to fight a complete ban on dogs entering parks in Callington.
It comes as dog lovers have raised concerns that they are not allowed to walk their dogs in parks in Callington and can only exercise them on pavements.
The local MP has now sent a survey to residents asking if they would like to see an area for dog walking created in a recreation ground in the ancient market town.
The suggestion has split opinion – with arguments for and against being played out online.
Callington’s council, which has twice refused a request for the dog walking area, argues that “our town is very dog friendly”.
The survey by South East Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray follows a bid by Callington town councillor Penny Ward to have a “dog-friendly” area fenced off in the town’s Launceston Road Recreation Ground, which was rejected by other members of the town council who had safety concerns about children and dogs coming into contact.
Her daughter Carly Ward runs a dog meet-up group in Callington. The group, which has 200 members, can’t actually meet in Callington because of the ban so has to go a mile out of town to Kit Hill.
Carly said: “There is nowhere in Callington town to take your dog other than pavement walks or to drive outside of the town to other areas.
“This goes against the ‘dog friendly’ Cornwall that this county boasts and I believe Callington is the only town in Cornwall where there is a complete ban on dogs entering parks.
“My mother continues to put pressure on the council to change the bans but needs a lot of public support in order to succeed.
“There is outrage in the town at the moment 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 Ward’s presentation to the town council stated: “Cornwall is every dog’s heaven on earth. It is doggy paradise. Dogs are allowed in most places such as beaches, pubs, hotels, cafés, restaurants, most public parks, even areas of the Eden Project and other attractions … except Callington.
“There is nowhere in Callington town where you can take your dog for a walk either on or off the lead other than pavement walks.
“My daughter and I started a dog meet-up group on Facebook in September 2022 so that residents with dogs could meet, socialise their dogs and meet new people.
“The popularity has been immense with new human friendships being made and dogs improving their social skills and generally having fun. This is as much for the human community as it is for the dogs.
“As there was nowhere in Callington to meet, we gather at Kit Hill Summit. Whilst this is good for some of us, not all have cars and those with disabilities cannot manage the terrain.
“By default, these people are excluded and cannot join in the fun. This is debilitating for their mental health and is not good for their dogs either being confined to a small garden or flat.”
Cllr Ward made an application in November 2022 to have a fenced area in the Launceston Road Recreation Ground designated “dog friendly”. This was rejected by the council due to there being a Public Space Protection Order on the recreation ground which includes a dog exclusion order. Cllr Ward said this expires next month.
She would like to see the order amended from 15 October to allow for approximately a third of the field to be fenced off as a designated dog park area with a separate entrance in South Hill Road, with funding to be discussed to provide a fence, a new gate with access for those with disabilities and a dog poo bin.
Callington’s mayor Peter Watson said: “The proposal to establish a dog walking area on the Launceston Road Recreational field has been discussed twice and on both occasions has been rejected by the council.
“The councillors’ concerns about this proposal included public health issues, the potential risk to other users in particular families and young children, and the potential costs which would fall on all parishioners (i.e. an increase in local tax rate).
“All of these points taken together with the fact that other areas for the exercising of dogs are available within the parish and in the immediate vicinity [means] the council did not feel it was in the interests of the majority of parishioners to support the proposal.”
Cllr Ward said councillors had concerns about transference of E. coli, hepatitis and toxocariasis from dog faeces.
Catarina Pereira, of Calweton Veterinary Group, said: “I would fully support Callington having a designated field for dogs. To avoid contamination of toxocariasis to humans it is better to contain the possibility of infections to one place as opposed to having this spread throughout the area.
"Toxocariasis can be easily prevented by simply worming your dog regularly. We see few cases in Callington as most dog owners are responsible and worm their dogs.”
Tamar Valley Health Centre in Callington had no recorded cases of toxocariasis in the past five years, which is how far back they searched on behalf of Cllr Ward.
According to the councillor’s presentation, a survey carried out by One Callington, the online version of Callington Town Forum community interest company, showed that of 144 people who took part, 137 said they would like to have a dog-friendly area in the town.
Sheryll Murray says on her survey: “Whilst out knocking on doors in Callington I met with local town councillor Penny Ward who told me about her desire to see a dog-friendly area in the Launceston Park Road Recreation Ground – this is the park between Launceston Road and South Hill near the fire station. At the moment there’s a total ban on dogs in the park.
“As a Member of Parliament I have always been keen to see that local residents’ views are heard. I therefore agreed to provide a survey so that all views will be taken into account. I will share your view with the town council who will ultimately make the decision.”
The results have just been collated and show that of over 200 people who took part, 105 favoured a fenced-off area for dogs in the recreation ground, while 88 said dogs should be banned altogether.
Callington Town Council issued a statement after Mrs Murray’s survey was launched in August.
It said: “Some of the residents in our town have received a survey form from Sheryll Murray MP regarding the Launceston Road Recreation Ground. This is a personal initiative on Ms Murray’s part and not endorsed by the town council who were not contacted prior to its release. However, we would urge everyone, whether in favour or against the proposal, to respond to the survey so the organisers get a true reflection on the views of the people of our town.
“We are incredibly proud that our town is very dog friendly. Together with our neighbouring councils, there are a myriad of areas where dog owners can exercise their pets. Kit Hill Country Park, Kelly Bray woods, and Callington Newbridge offer a wealth of walks for dogs and their owners. In addition we have 13 footpaths and dozens of country roads where dog owners can, and do, walk. We also have a large number of waste bins, where dog walkers can deposit dog waste and which Cornwall Council empties.”
Credit: Lee Trewhela/Local Democracy Reporting Service.