Dog walkers urged to keep to the sidelines

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A fresh bid to stop dogs fouling on sports pitches at Netherdale has been made ... citing a piece of historical text.

Known locally as “the back pitches”, the rugby and football fields are often scattered with dog faeces, which is a potential health risk for those using them – mainly youngsters.

Johnny Gray

Johnny Gray

Johnny Gray, the chairman of the Galashiels Junior Rugby Council, has been trying to deny dog walkers access to the pitches for years to no avail, however, at this month’s community council meeting, he stated that he thinks he may have come up with a historical document which could help his case.

He said: “There are a lot of responsible dog walkers, who keep to the grass verges, and pick up after their dogs. What we are trying to stop is the few who drive up to the car park, open their door and let the dog run wild, without even trying to pick up their busuiness.

“We are not trying to stop people walking their dogs, we are just asking them to keep them off the pitches.”

The document in question, he believes, was contained in notes which could have been attached to the original deed when the pitches were gifted to Galashiels Town Council by the benevolent owner, Robert Sanderson Hayward, in 1946.

The note states: “It is to be clearly understood that this proposal is a direct gift from the owner to the people of Galashiels, to enable the use for the present and future, to have the use of this recreational sports ground in order to make them fit and healthy, and good sports like their forefathers.”

Johnny added: “I think that does not include letting their dogs poo on the pitches.”

However, Councillor Sandy Aitchison, executive member for neighbourhoods and locality services, said he had met with Mr Gray and a council lawyer.

And although he said he shared Mr Gray’s concerns, the note unfortunately will not change the situation.

He said: “The document is not one which has any great modern legal binding and is not specific enough in the terms of what it said.

“We did have a discussion on the difficulties of imposing and ban on people allowing their dogs on the pitches.

“However, people do know it’s not socially acceptable to let their dogs do this. Even if you pick up the faeces, you can’t get it all as it’s grass. And there are health risks involved. It’s not a lack of knowledge, it’s ignorance.”

Mr Aitchison is currently looking into other ways of policing the problem of people not picking up after their dogs.

Back in 2013, a motion calling for a bylaw banning dogs from all of the region’s sports pitches was lodged by Kelso councillor Tom Weatherston, but while it garnered some support, the motion was not carried, after Hawick councillor and then environmental boss Davie Paterson said that the local authority is powerless to stop dog fouling on sports pitches.