A MAN has criticised Denbighshire County Council (DCC) after he was fined for letting his dog run free on public gardens in Rhyl.

Tim Grant-Jones said he walked his dog regularly at Coronation Gardens last August, before one day, he was stopped after his dog was seen running off a lead.

He was subsequently issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) and a £100 fine.

Mr Grant-Jones appealed the FPN, though DCC has said the fine has now been paid.

But, contrary to what he was told, Mr Grant argued that his dog did not run on the rounders batting squares at the gardens.

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Indeed, Mr Grant-Jones believes the women who issued him with his FPN have “obviously been primed to fine every dog walker they see in the distance who has let their dog off the lead”.

He said: “Dogs are allowed to go anywhere except across the marked sports areas.

“So, I routinely found a route carefully avoiding the two football pitches and the two rounders batting squares. There’s nowhere else in Rhyl where dogs can run freely off the lead, not even the beach.

“One day, I noticed two ladies in green at the opposite end of the field to me when my dog was passing between a football pitch and a batting square.

“They approached me and accused me of allowing the dog to run on the sports areas and issued a FPN along with a £100 fine.

“The FPN ticket gave me two options: either pay the fine, or go to court. It also gave an email address where to send any appeal.

“Needless to say, the easiest option was to make the appeal, which I sent, explaining that the dog did not run on the batting square and that the ladies were much too far away to make the accusation.

“A standard template reply came back, stating the hazards of becoming blind if coming into contact with dog faeces. It was obvious the appeal was not read.

“I subsequently complained that the matter was not being dealt with properly. I even sent photographs of my location and the ladies’ location, along with words pinpointing the exact spots. The distance turned out to be 140 metres.”

Mr Grant-Jones added that he then entered into dialogue with Tony Ward, head of highways and environmental services at DCC.

After Ombudsman Services then became involved in the case, he said Mr Ward “mistakenly relied on the Ombudsman, which was not legally allowed to intervene”.

He added: “After a few months of email exchanges, Tony Ward at DCC decided we had entered ‘phase two’, and recommended I go to the Ombudsman.

“So I paid the fine, but the outcome of the Ombudsman was that they could not play a part because the council had offered a court hearing.

“Tony Ward was quick to warn me of the risks of doing that because I could end up paying court costs and a fine of up to £1,000, so there is nowhere reassuring to go further up the chain.

“The ladies have obviously been primed to fine every dog walker they see in the distance who has let their dog off the lead.

“Their first sentence when they approach you is: ‘We have reason to believe your dog has been running on the sports areas’ no matter the unlikelihood of them actually knowing this given their distance away from you.

“But, they know Tony Ward will believe them and that this will stand up in court.

“You sense this because of the absolutely arrogant way the lady talks to you, and Tony Ward has verified this fact in correspondence with me.

“Despite numerous emails over a five-month period and an encounter with the Ombudsman, Mr Ward allowed himself no chance to realise the dog’s innocence and despite the reference on the FPN to an appeals process, refused to listen.

“He mistakenly relied on the Ombudsman service which was not legally allowed to intervene. This kind of behaviour does not endear members of the public to adhere faithfully to the rules when the ladies are not there.

“It might draw in unwarranted fines, so pays the ladies’ salary, but this in itself is a conflict of interests. They take every opportunity to issue fines to keep them in a job.”

Mr Grant-Jones added that there are other, more prevalent issues the council should be dealing with, such as littering at Coronation Gardens.

He also said he later saw a pair of dogs “running riot all over the graves” at the cemetery where his wife’s parents are buried.

He added: “Actually, the council have taken their eye off the ball. The pitches are littered with cans and drinks bottles, and foxes’ poo everywhere.

“Have you ever seen 30 rounders players (maximum number of players on two rounders teams) huddled in a batting square (12x12m) when playing a match?

“Actually, only the bowler is in the square, which marks the area where other players don’t enter.

“So, dogs are allowed to run and squat anywhere around the batting square where the majority of players are running, falling, or picking up the ball.

“The rules only protect the square from dogs, where one player is.

“So, the council is fining people who allegedly allow their dog to run briefly over the square not used by players, but doesn’t address the problem of dogs possibly fouling the area in constant use by players.

“So, the council has ‘fouled’ me for issuing a fine incorrectly, not allowing an appeals process but expecting me to give up my time and expense in court, not understanding their own legal system, and not understanding the game of rounders.

“A week after I was issued the FPN, I visited the cemetery as my wife’s parents are buried there. Dogs are not allowed there, full stop.

“On that occasion, two dogs were running riot over all the graves. Now that’s a problem.”

In response, a DCC spokesperson said: “Dog fouling remains an important priority for the council and we work closely with District Enforcement alongside local members and the public to identity those who are offending.

“Dog owners found in breach of the Public Space Protection Order will receive a £100 FPN. An individual can either pay the fine or contest the notice further in court.

“The requirement to keep dogs off marked sports areas was adopted by the council because of the severe health risks dog fouling can have to young athletes.

“Even if the fouling is removed by the dog owner, the Toxocariasis disease can still be transmitted.

“In dealing with incidents of this nature we thoroughly investigate any representations made to the council and respond to them and also closely examine the necessary evidence.

“In this circumstance, the FPN was paid and the matter was closed.”