CONTROVERSIAL plans to regulate how dog owners exercise their pets in Oxford are set to be approved today.

Consultation showed city residents who responded broadly backed the plans, to include a ban on dogs in play areas and an increase in fines from £50 to £80.

City council officers will also be able to order people to keep their dogs on leads for the first time.

Anybody taking out more than four dogs on roads, footpaths, or parks in the city – including Port Meadow and Shotover country park – could face fines.

Consultation with the ‘TalkBack’ citizens’ panel of 950 residents showed more than 80 per cent support for higher fines, officer powers to demand dogs be put on leads, and the play area ban.

But some dog walkers yesterday branded the new proposals as “crazy”.

Thea Wright, of Pinny and Paws cleaners and dog walkers, in Headington, said: “I know people with more than four dogs, and for them it will be terrible.

“As long as you have got dogs under control, why should anyone be able to limit the number you walk?”

She added: “Professional dog walkers usually do not take aggressive dogs, Staffordshire Bull Terriers or those kind of breeds.

“It just seems crazy.”

Alex Young, of Walkies in Headington, added: “The level of control totally depends on the dogs, on their breed, their size and training.

“I could be walking 10 dogs and they will be perfectly behaved, or just one or two dogs and it becomes an issue.”

City council executive member John Tanner, who is expected to sign off the new rules today, said: “With more than four dogs, you are not taking your dog out for a walk but a pack of potentially dangerous animals for a riot around the park.”

He added: “At the moment, you get hit less if you are caught letting your dog foul on the pavement than if you drop a packet of crisps.”

Last year, council officers received 102 complaints about dog dirt, and police received 43 complaints of out-of-control animals.

Leads will also have to be used in SS Mary and John churchyard in Cowley Road under the powers, granted through a dog control order.