Councillors opt not to bend rules for assistance dogs

Canine Partners were hoping to get special permission to exercise an assistance dog like this one on Heckington Playing Field. EMN-170303-165056001
Canine Partners were hoping to get special permission to exercise an assistance dog like this one on Heckington Playing Field. EMN-170303-165056001

Parish councillors have regretfully turned down a request by a Heckington resident for special permission to exercise her assistance dog off the lead on the village playing field.

Canine Partners had written to the council on behalf of a disabled client seeking the exception to the rules.

There is currently a restriction in place on the field off Howell Road where walkers are only allowed to to exercise their dogs on the lead around a 5m wide perimeter strip, to prevent the chance of fouling on the sports pitches.

But when asked to consider the exception at Monday’s council meeting, members felt it would be unfair on other dog owners to allow it. They felt there was no guarantee the animal would be under control off the lead and could upset those nervous of dogs.

Canine Partners’ aftercare manager Claire Anthony told The Standard in a statement the dog owner is physically disabled and uses an electric wheelchair, relying on an assistance dog for four years.

She said: “The dog has been specially trained to pick up anything its human partner drops, retrieve things off supermarket shelves and press buttons to open doors and call lifts. The dog also helps around the house and helps its partner undress.

“These tasks have proven vital in improving this lady’s independence and confidence.

“Heckington playing fields is the only area she can exercise her dog without having to rely on her husband to drive her.

“We encourage our partnerships to walk their dogs off-lead as many of them, like this lady, have mobility issues, therefore are unable to give their dogs appropriate exercise if they were to keep them on their leads. This is not only vital for the dogs’ physical health but also their mental wellbeing as they need time to step back from their day jobs and play like any other dog.

“Our dogs are highly trained to use a designated toilet area in their own gardens and they do not usually urinate or foul away from home.”

She said assistance dogs are trained to be well behaved to be granted access to places pet dogs are not, including shops and restaurants.