An angry dog walker was left ‘absolutely gobsmacked’ after she was told to pay £1,000 for taking her pet off his lead.
Jane Hurry took her beloved Alsatian, Max, for a stroll near to her home in Colchester, Essex.
The mother-of-two was crossing between playing fields when she was approached by a council warden who told her she was being fined because her four-year-old dog was not on his lead.
Jane Hurry took her beloved Alsatian, Max, for a stroll near to her home in Colchester, Essex in January this year
Ms Hurry said she could understand if she was being fined for not picking up her dog’s mess, but said she was unaware of the strict rules about keeping pets on leads.
Offenders are initially issued with a £100 fine for walking their dogs off their leads but if they do not pay it, they are sent two reminder letters over the following weeks.
The 54-year-old has also recently moved home and was unaware of the correspondence ordering her to appear before magistrates last week.
As a result, she did not attend court and was subsequently fined £500 for her absence, along with £450 costs and a further £50 surcharge.
She said: ‘I was walking Max across the playing field when I saw the council chap getting out of his car.
‘It was tipping it down with rain and I was walking between a couple of the pitches – not on the fields of play.
‘He said “do you realise your dog should be on its lead. Have you not seen the signs? It’s an offence to walk your dog off the lead”.
Signs have been put in place around the playing fields near to Ms Hurry’s home
‘I told him he should stick around as there are at least 20 or 30 people every day who walk their dogs off their leads.
‘I’d not been there for a while as I suffer from bad arthritis so my walks had been short but if I had known about the rule, Max would have been on his lead.
‘I had not noticed any signs at all warning of the rule. £1,000 is one heck of a lot of money. I’ll never find it in a million years.’
Ms Hurry moved home earlier this year and had been receiving mail sporadically from the new occupant.
She only discovered on Friday that she had missed a previous court date.
She said: ‘I would have pleaded guilty, I guess there’s nothing else I could have done, but I would have stood up and had my say.
The fields are now under regular council surveillance and the number of warnings issued or tickets issued has ‘significantly dropped’
‘£1,000 is a ridiculous amount of money to have to pay. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I found out.
‘If it was for dog fouling I could understand – I would have held my hands up but this was for a law that I knew nothing about.
‘They should just ban dogs from the pitches entirely instead of this silly rule.’
She had been walking her dog on playing fields where Colchester Rugby Club play in Janaury this year when a council worker stopped her.
She added: ‘I’ve been going through a lot in my personal life recently so this was the last thing I needed.
‘They could have issued a warning to me instead of the fine.’
The council said they introduced a ban on dogs being walked on the piches in 2016, and that dogs must be kept on leads if being walked on the outskirts.
It was introduced after residents became fed up with dog fouling on the pitches.
Ms Hurry had recently moved homes and claims to have not seen letters calling on her to pay the fine
If the warnings are still ignored, the council then takes them to court.
A Colchester Council spokesman added: ‘At no point in this particular case did we receive any communication from the defendant.’
Colchester councillor Martin Goss said: ‘The clear message is if you do break the law, please just pay the fine because if it goes to court the magistrates will find against you in your absence.’
Mr Goss said a number of fines had been issued under the order since it was introduced in October 2016, but this was the first time a recipient had not responded.
He added the playing fields are now under regular council surveillance and the number of warnings issued or tickets issued has ‘significantly dropped’.