A widow was fined £100 for taking her border collie on a visit to her husband’s grave after the council banned dogs from the cemetery.
Lynda Martin says she was “made to feel like a criminal” when she became the first person to be hit with a fixed penalty notice for breaching the rule in Herne Bay.
The 67-year-old has visited the site frequently with her beloved dog Megan since her husband, Niall Willis, 81, was buried last April.
The 12-year-old collie was even by her side at Niall’s funeral.
But on February 25 Mrs Martin was confronted by an enforcement officer and issued with the fine – the first since the ban was introduced in 2017.
She said: “I was accosted by a man with a camera who asked for my details, and I was given a £100 fixed penalty notice for having a dog in an exclusion area.
“I felt victimised and was made to feel like a criminal.
“Megan was on the lead and under control.
“I could have understood if Megan was rampaging all over the graves, but I think you should be able to take a dog in on its lead.”
Mrs Martin admits she was aware dogs are not allowed in the cemetery, and quickly paid the fine.
But she is now calling for the council to scrap the ban, and has the support of a senior city councillor.
She added: “Megan is my constant companion and my emotional support.
“I don’t know what I would have done over the last year without her.
“I think the enforcement officers are better off catching real criminals – flytippers and hooligans – rather than preying on someone vulnerable.”
As part of a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), dogs are also banned from entering Canterbury Cemetery in Becket Avenue, and most of Whitstable Cemetery, except for a public footpath running from Millstrood Road to the north-east of the site.
Herne Bay councillor Joe Howes has backed Mrs Martin’s calls for the PSPO to be reviewed.
The Conservative believes “well-behaved” dogs on leads should be permitted, as long as their owners clear up after them.
He said: “It is awful this has happened to a woman of her age, or to anyone who is grieving, which is why it’s important there is a review to look at why this has happened.
“She was breaking the rules – which she has said – but I think it needs to be looked at because dogs do miss their owners.
“A well-behaved dog on a lead and a sensible owner who tidies up their dog’s mess should be permitted.
“I know a lot of people who visit graves with their pets and have never been stopped or spotted.”
A spokesman for Canterbury City Council, which runs the site, confirmed Mrs Martin is the first person to be fined for a breach of the rule in Herne Bay Cemetery.
He added that the PSPO was consulted on “extensively” before its introduction in 2017 and again when it was renewed in 2020.
He said: “Historically we had a number of complaints about dog walkers using the cemetery and about dog fouling, which is upsetting to other people who go there to visit the graves of loved ones.
“The parish council has also asked us to take action on dog fouling following an increase in the problem recently.
“Signs are on show at the cemetery to explain the restrictions that are in place.
“In this particular case, Mrs Martin admitted she breached the PSPO.
“We have reviewed the bodycam footage and are satisfied that the officer dealt with the incident in a courteous and professional manner and that the fixed penalty notice was correctly issued.
“While we sympathise with the reasons Mrs Martin gave for having her dog with her, we have to enforce the restrictions in a consistent way and cannot make exceptions.
“That said, when we look to review the PSPO in the future we will carry out further public consultation, and if wider public opinion has changed then we will take this into account.”
Mrs Martin’s fine was issued by an enforcement officer from Kingdom LA Support, which was controversially rehired by the council in November.
The firm was previously employed by the authority between 2014 and 2016, with its officers often criticised for being “overzealous”.
A memorable episode during that period saw workers fine a retired couple £160 for littering, after they left a handful of cherry stones at the foot of a tree.
During a trial last summer ahead of Kingdom being rehired, the firm was accused of targeting smokers as “easy pickings” as 96% of fines were given to people dropping cigarette butts.