Dog owners concerned over rise in fines

The issue over dogs running free in parks has divided public opinion

The police chief of Prague 1 recently urged police to issue more fines. Some dog owners feel they are taking the brunt of the suggestion, as police seem to be in some parks more often to enforce dog laws.

Earlier this year, there were discussions in City Hall and in the districts to bring some sense to dog walking rules in parks to create more spaces or times when dogs could be off the leash, but so far no tangible progress has been made.

Fines for dogs off the leash outside of the very limited designated exercise areas have become a topic on Czech social media, according to daily Pražský deník.

Dog owners claim they are particularly being targeted in Prague 7 in Stromovka and Letná Park. Statistics for Prague 7 show that more fines have been given out for free movement of dogs, but the amounts have not increased.

A Facebook user quoted by Pražský deník said that the sun was shining in Stromovka and that the park was empty due to people being on vacation, but still dog owners were being targeted by police with a map showing designated areas, and handing out tickets. The Facebook user speculated that City Hall was behind the situation.

Strict enforcement of the rules for dog walking could lead to fewer Prague residents seeking dogs from the city's overcrowded shelters. The Facebook user called for pressure on the city to find a compromise.

Police officers in Prague 7 gave out 189 fines for free-running dogs in the first four months of 2017, compared to 26 during the same period in the previous year. From the beginning of this May to the end of July there were 335 fines. Prague 7 has the most fines for dog offenses in the city. The average amount of the fine was just over Kč 100, and was even slightly lower than in the previous year.

Prague 7 police told Pražský deník that police were doing their job by enforcing the law, and denied that they have been following higher-level instructions to have a crackdown on dog owners.

A Facebook group for people in the Letná area has had people on both sides of the issue. Some people said they needed to exercise their dogs somewhere, and others that dog owners were selfish for taking over large areas of the park.

Another person commented that when police targeted unsafe drivers and rogue cyclists they got praise from the public, but when they enforced dog laws they were criticized as bad for doing their job.

One user was concerned that many dogs were not properly trained, and dog owners in Stromovka were often at the far end of the field. If there was any trouble it would take the owner too long to intervene. This user felt sorry for people with trained dogs, but felt there was no middle ground to enforcing the laws.

Currently dogs in Prague can move freely on the owners' responsibility everywhere except playgrounds and green areas. In parks and other green areas there are designated zones for dogs to exercise off the leash.

The city is looking at creating a new decree to define more dog meadows where dogs can exercise freely.

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