FINES could be issued to people walking more than four dogs at a time as part of a new crackdown in the Rochford district, it has been revealed.

A series of tough new measures to stop irresponsible dog ownership and keep dogs under control are being considered by Rochford District Council tonight.

Under the proposals, walkers with more than four dogs at a time could be fined and dogs will also be banned from children's play areas.

Leaving dog faeces on the ground will remain an offence and the pets will still need to be kept on leads along highways and pavements. Those who break the orders would face £50 fines.

Chris Black, a Rayleigh Lib Dem councillor, said: "I think 99 per cent of dog owners will be happy with these measures and I think they are reasonable.

"We've had by-laws on dog-fouling for the past ten to 15 years, but they've never been enforced properly, so it's a question of enforcement."

The proposals follow a consultation of residents by council officers, which initially caused concern among many dog owners in the Rochford district.

But the measures put forward reflect the 2,000 responses the council received on the issues raised in the questionnaires.

The order, which authorises council workers to instruct people to put their dogs on leashes in public places, aimed at pets which are causing trouble, was not an issue the public were consulted about.

Mr Black added: "This order would not be easy to enforce because people don't hang around in parks that long. I'd imagine it would only be persistent offenders which were targeted."

Recent Government legislation has given councils greater powers to deal with environmental problems, such as dog fouling and stray animals.

Rochford District Council's cabinet will decide whether to adopt the orders at a meeting this evening, at 7.30pm, in Rayleigh's Civic Suite, in Hockley Road.