Dogwalkers At Inch Abbey Barking Mad Over DfC Decision

Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown concerned at the Department for Communities Decision that all dogs must be on leads at Inch Abbey.

Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown concerned at the Department for Communities Decision that all dogs must be on leads at Inch Abbey.

  • Councillor criticises off-the-lead ban for dog-walkers

Councillor Patrick Brown, Alliance Party Animal Welfare Spokesperson, has criticised the Department for Communities’ decision to demand dog-walkers at Inch Abbey keep their dogs on a lead.

This was in response to a petition started on social media last week by concerned dog walkers, which has so far gained over 300 signatures. In response to this, Councillor Brown and Independent Councillor Cadogan Enright organised a meeting with dog walkers at Inch Abbey to discuss their concerns.

Speaking after the meeting Councillor Brown said: ‘Inch Abbey has been used by responsible dog owners for many years, and there is no evidence of damage to any of the ruins as a result of dogs walking off the lead.

Councillors Patrick Brown and Cadogan Enright pictured with responsible dog walkers at Inch Abbey near Downpatrick.

“All this action does is discourage residents and their dogs who enjoy walks in Inch Abbey from using the site. I was particularly heartened to hear how Inch Abbey has been a vital space for dog owners who have had mental health challenges during lockdown, and how for many years it has been one of the few accessible spaces in the area for dog walkers with disabilities.

“As we emerge from the pandemic public bodies should be looking to increase the use of open spaces where dogs can get proper exercise and socialise, not restrict them.”

Councillor Enright added: “Any issues with dog fouling are the consequence of a lack of enforcement of irresponsible owners, and should be dealt with as such. A blanket ban on off-the-lead walking is nonsensical.

“Councillor Brown and I will be writing to the Department of Communities to outline our total opposition to this move, asking that they drop these new restrictions and instead put their energy into tackling littering and dog fouling by irresponsible dog owners, rather than chastising responsible ones.”

Vanessa Murphy, who started the petition on behalf of concerned dog walkers, said that this new policy is a dramatic change from the previous policy at Inch Abbey, which was to keep dogs ‘under control’.

She said: “The rationale for this decision remains unclear. The Department of Communities asserts that dogs off leash cause damage to the ruins, yet despite requests for data supporting this assertion no information has been provided.

“A compromise has been suggested of a fenced off area for dogs adjacent to the ruins – this request has been denied due to the potential of there being further ruins underground that dogs off leash could do damage to. This assertion is puzzling given the many wild animals in the area such as foxes and rabbits, and the limited evidence of any damage on this site to date.”

The petition is available on