A PSPO or Public Spaces Protection Order is a local order designed to deal with a genuine problem that causes detriment to the wider community, and should not be used needlessly or without very good cause in order to restrict people without warrant.
What has this got to do with dogs? Well, there are four main different types of Public Spaces Protection Orders that are used in many areas that affect dogs and dog owners, and you may live in an area where one or more applies; or where there is talk of one being introduced.
A council can actually create a very defined and unique PSPO of its own if this is warranted, although this is very uncommon, and generally, one of just four categories of PSPO are applied to dogs and dog owners.
This article will outline the four main different types of PSPO applied to dogs and dog owners in England and Wales, their impact, and why they might be used. Read on to learn more.
A “PSPO” or “Public Spaces Protection Order” is a piece of localised legislation that a local council at any formal level (county, district, borough or other unitary authority, but not a voluntary or civil local authority like a parish council) can put in place to make a rule or place a Protection on a certain defined activity in a certain public place they own or manage. They remain in place for three years, after which they are reviewed and may be renewed or cancelled.
A common example of a PSPO is the “no drinking alcohol” rules and signage you might see in some areas, often town centres and in areas where bars and pubs border residential areas.
PSPO legislation ultimately allows the council using the PSPO to ban or restrict an activity with legal powers, when the activity itself is not actually illegal per se; like drinking alcohol in a public place.
A PSPO should only be introduced or created in response to a real issue, such as if people drinking in a certain public area causes a nuisance or danger. They are only implemented after consultation with the wider community that they apply to, and should be proportionate to the issue in question.
So, what type of PSPO are most commonly implemented for dogs and dog owners?
The first type of PSPO relating to dogs is designed to ban or “exclude” dogs from being allowed into certain public spaces with defined boundaries.
You probably know of several of these in your local area already, and they’re in place for a good reason; they’re commonly applied in children’s playground, skate parks, and potentially, playing fields and cemeteries. These are all places where the presence of dogs could cause a nuisance or even danger, as could dog waste.
These types of dog exclusions apply all year round, 24 hours a day, regardless of whether the area in question is in use by others at any given time or not.
There are also seasonal/time-relevant exclusions or bans on dogs that can be implemented with a PSPO for some applications, for the same sort of reasons as those used for permanent dog exclusions; but taking into account that the issue dogs could cause is only likely or common some of the time.
A good example of this is that many popular beaches in the UK have exclusion orders on dogs during certain times of the day when the beach will be busy, certain times of the year when the beach is popular, or both.
This often means dogs can be walked on beaches in summer early in the morning or late at night but not otherwise.
Seasonal or timed exclusions aren’t unique to seasonal spots and events though, and may be applied anywhere relevant; for instance, if a playing field is used by schools or colleges, dogs may be banned from it during the times the fields may be in use in this way, but permitted onto the fields earlier and later.
Dog owners have the responsibility in law to keep their dog under control at all times, which for many if not most dogs, means being on the lead in many situations when out in public. However, there is no blanket law in England and Wales that formally states that dogs must be on a lead in certain situations; instead, these are mandated in defined local areas as needed with a series of individual PSPO regulations.
There are quite a few places or scenarios where a local and legally binding rule to keep dogs on a lead may apply, which may be in car parks, picnic spots, and around school gates.
As well as blanket PSPO rules about dogs on leads, there is also a PSPO that can dictate dogs must be placed on a lead “by direction.” This means that if an authorised person instructs you to put your dog on the lead, even if your dog has done nothing wrong and follows directions to the letter, you must do so.
An “authorised officer” can include police officers, community wardens, dog wardens and dog control officers and similar public servants.
Picking up after your dog (and vitally, disposing of the poop properly) is a blanket law in the UK. However, this does not mean that everyone does so! Some areas tend to suffer from a large number of offenders (or sometimes, just one or two very persistent ones) to the point that an additional PSPO is introduced specifically to deal with this.
This type of PSPO mandates that dog owners not only have to pick up their dog’s poop – but also be able to show/prove that they have the means to do so.
For instance, an authorised officer (as outlined above) could stop and ask any dog owner within the area that the PSPO applies to to show them that they have dog poop bags. This is the case even if your dog has not pooped and nobody is claiming that they have, far less that you didn’t pick it up!