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Islington Tribune - EXCLUSIVE by PETER GRUNER
Published: 27 March 2009

Dog owners José Korn, Cinzia Daniels, Iris McLoughlin and George Topping

Pet owners say heavy handed tactics of wardens must be curbed

A TRIAL of plain-clothes dog wardens has been dramatically halted by Islington Council following allegations that they behaved like “secret police.”
Dog walkers believe that the row, along with an investigation this week by the Tribune, resulted in the plain-clothes warden scheme being dropped.
A public meeting is being held tonight (Friday) by dog walkers in the EC1 area to discuss “heavy-handed” tactics by the wardens.
It follows the setting up of a new 24-hour hit squad of six wardens working for Islington Council who patrol parks, streets and estates in Finsbury.
The wardens have the power to hand out £80 on-the-spot fines to anyone caught allowing their dog to foul.
Cinzia Daniels, 46, a former fitness manager, was apprehended by two plain-clothes wardens when she was walking her dog in St Luke’s Gardens near Old Street.
“My dog decided to go behind the bushes,” Mrs Daniels said. “I followed him with my poop-scoop bag but found no mess and thought nothing of it. Meanwhile I had a cigarette, stubbed it out, and walked with my dog on a lead out of the park.”
A man and a woman, both in plain clothes, then approached Mrs Daniels and told her that she had committed two offences. She would receive two £80 fines amounting to £160.
Mrs Daniels said: “I asked: ‘What have I done?’ The man said I’d allowed my dog to foul and didn’t clean up after it. And I also stubbed a cigarette on the ground.
“I admitted stubbing the cigarette out but I said my dog didn’t make a mess so they couldn’t fine me for that.”
The wardens then phoned for police assistance after Mrs Daniels refused at first to give her personal details.
Mrs Daniel added: “They did show me council identification. But because they were in plain clothes I thought they could have been anyone. “
Finally Mrs Daniels agreed to pay the two fines, reduced to £50 for each offence because she agreed to pay within ten days.
Dog walker George Topping, a clinical hypnotherapist from Whitecross Street, is organising tonight’s meeting at the Vibast Community Centre in Old Street, at 7.15pm. He said he’s had enough.
Mr Topping, who is disabled and has an old rescue dog, said: “The wardens have been extremely aggressive and intimidating to dog walkers. They even stalked one young boy out with his pet and followed him home.
“The boy was walking his dog in St Luke’s Gardens when the animal had an ‘accident’. The boy was followed home and his mother was given an on-the-spot fine. The boy was in tears.”
Mr Topping added that he’s not against cracking down on bad dog owners who allow their animals to mess in parks and streets. “We’re not against wardens doing their job but they should declare themselves,” he said. “They shouldn’t be hounding innocent pet owners in plain clothes.”
The warden project is funded by the EC1 New Deal for Communities partnership.
Councillor Ruth Polling, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Leisure and Equalities, said: “In response to public demand, the council has recently stepped up its action against the small number of anti-social people who refuse to clear up after their dogs.
“Following particular concerns raised by the public about dog fouling, we carried out plain clothed patrols for a two-week trial period, which has now ended.
“In Mrs Daniels’s case, as always, the wardens produced their official ID and explained who they were before noting any offences.”

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