THIS is a public plea to dog owners who exercise their dogs on the Demesnes, Barnard Castle, a public space long used by townspeople for recreation of all types.

One main user is the local rugby club, a charitable sports association where we try to instil respect, discipline, team spirit, and a love of activity, in order to grow better members of the community for the future.

Currently we have more than 14 squads, junior, senior, male and female covering ages from six upwards, making over 200 active local users, plus the numerous visiting clubs we entertain.

Our land use is mainly confined to the field where the posts are, (a use for which we pay the county council annually). We also maintain, drain, and cut this field in order that there is no cost to the townspeople.

We work hand in hand with many organisations; the adjoining dog-handlers club, allotment holders, the town council, the Meet Committee, and the Clique charity, to ensure maximum enjoyment of this small section by all people. Latterly there has been an increase in the number of people exercising their unleashed dogs on the sports field, with a resultant increase in liquid and solid deposits on the playing areas. The obvious health issue is clear, and serious.

Rugby, as a sport, involves much rolling on the ground, with a high risk of faeces coming into contact with all competitors, young and old, which is extremely unpleasant.

Imagine the concern of parents of the youngsters entrusted to our care, or of visiting clubs, when they see clear evidence of people not using the well-placed facilities for bagging, and when they see that evidence stained on their children’s shirts and shorts.

Most dog owners are sensible and co-operative, and keep their pets under control. We are talking about relatively few people who have probably not considered the implications of exercising dogs in this field.

So, I make a plea – that all people using the Demesnes avoid dog exercise on this part, or at the very least keep animals on a leash while crossing it. Your co-operation will be very much appreciated.

James Dykes, Barnard Castle RUFC Minis Fixture Secretary