A public meeting to discuss a dog off-leash by-law is to be held in Fingal County Council.

The by-law prohibits people from walking their dogs off their leads between 11am and one hour before dusk in some public parks.

All 40 Fingal County Councillors will attend the meeting, where they are to discuss with residents and dog owners the adoption of the controversial rule.

There is growing public demand to reverse the by-law, which was introduced last June.

Fingal Dog Owners Group (DOG) was formed last October in opposition to what they call a restrictive and discriminatory by-law.

John O'Callaghan and other members of the group met in Ward River Valley Park in Swords last night, one of seven regional parks of Fingal County Council which spans around 220 acres.

"The problem is I've been walking dogs, not the same dog by the way, for 40 years. Up to recently dogs enjoyed the freedom of the park off the lead."

The rule is one of a number that were introduced by the council in 2018 under the council's Open Space Bye-Laws.

The council's Senior Parks Supervisor Kevin Halpenny said they asked the public what changes they would like to see introduced before introducing the by-laws. 

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"The revision of our by-law is a result of a very careful and methodical process which has taken over five years to complete.

"A majority of the people who we surveyed or made submissions requested that the council would amend the by-laws to designate off-leash areas for dogs. And the elected councillors endorsed this by voting for the amended by-law."

The Ward River Valley Park in Swords has an interim, enclosed dog walking area meaning that for the present, people cannot walk their dogs off their leads between 11am and one hour before dusk.

However that will change when a permanent dog area is built.

Dermot Byrne, Chairman of DOG said at the moment around two acres is provided for them to walk their dogs off the lead but they would like that to be extended to five acres.

He does not like the idea of enclosed areas.

"I would normally walk my dog, Otto, in this park and we'd do around 5km a day. He's a collie-cross so he needs a lot of exercise. Seemingly they walk three times what you walk when they're off lead, he's running around, he's sniffing the woods, he's running across the fields and running into the river so therefore they get three-times the amount of exercise that I'd be getting.

"Now the problem is with these cages, because we're being told we can only walk the dogs in the cage, it takes three minutes to walk around that cage. I normally walk for an hour and a half to two hours a day, two hours walking around a cage would drive anybody nuts."

The ISPCA supports the dog owners and said they are being discriminated against.

Chief Executive Andrew Kelly said a public park should be open to all people including responsible dog-owners.

"By reducing or limiting access to dog owners they've essentially excluded parts of the community, which I don't think is acceptable, and in trying to create a balance they've actually created an imbalance against responsible dog owners."

The council said it is not discriminating against dog owners and that there are adequate facilities being provided for them.

They said are they open to engaging with the ISPCA or anyone else who feels discriminated against to explain how the by-laws work to provide shared spaces in the community.

The public meeting on the by-law will take place at the Carnegie Court Hotel, Swords, Co Dublin, at 7pm.