Dad of toddler killed in crash pleads for dogs to be banned from cemeteries

Paul Irvine has been campaigning to have the change introduced following the death of his son in 2020.

Dad of toddler Xander Irvine killed in Edinburgh crash pleads for dogs to be banned from cemeteries Police Scotland

The dad of a toddler who was killed after being knocked down in Edinburgh has vowed to take his campaign to ban dogs in cemeteries to the First Minister.

Paul Irvine has been calling for the change to be introduced in the city since 2022 after noticing dogs were destroying items left by mourners and urinating on headstones.

Three-year-old Xander Irvine was killed after being struck by a car on Morningside Road in 2020. He was walking along the street with his mum Victoria when a car mounted the pavement and crashed into a shop front.

Paul, whose home overlooks Morningside Cemetery where Xander is buried, said the situation is “adding to his grief”.

He said the situation “hasn’t changed” despite the council introducing signage asking for dogs to be kept on a lead.

He explained: “We had Xander buried in Morningside cemetery, very close to where we live, so we could visit his grave whenever we needed to, which is still every day, sometimes a few times a day.

“After Xander was killed, lots of lovely people left teddies and flowers, which mean so much to us, and we got them placed at his grave. It wasn’t long before we noticed teddies go missing and even damaged. We soon realised it was dogs being walked in the cemetery that were doing this.

“I want to say at this point, I don’t blame the dogs, only the irresponsible owners letting their dogs off the lead for the problem. I had many occasions where I witnessed the dogs grabbing the teddies in front of us or from my window which overlooks the cemetery, just in case anyone tries to say it was a fox or other wildlife, but I know for fact it’s mostly dogs.

“I eventually contacted my local MP, and had two large meetings with councillors to try and get the rules reverted back to no dogs allowed in cemeteries (which is the case in other councils and was in place in Edinburgh before Covid) but I only managed to persuade them to have the rule of dogs must be kept on leads.

“This was very traumatic for me to have to do, but I plucked up the courage and fought for the rules to change for my son and his memory.”

The grieving dad said he has to speak to dog walkers on a “daily basis” but is often met with abuse and threats.

“I see the same people come several times a day to walk their dogs, some even arrive by car. Many swap the leads to extremely long extendable leads and most of them let their dogs urinate on graves and headstones.

“Many just stroll past Xander’s grave with no consideration, probably letting their dog urinate on his grave. Teddies still go missing and get destroyed. I see the same in cemeteries all over town. What happened to respect?

“My next move is to go to the First Minister and plead for him to reintroduce the ban of dogs in cemeteries. In the meantime, can any dog walker using a cemetery have a wee think about what I’ve said and maybe use one of the many other green spaces where dogs are allowed off leads please.

“This whole situation just adds to my grief and pushes my anxiety levels through the roof, which is why I sometimes get so irate with people and come across as aggressive, for which I apologise if I have shouted at you.”

The latest guidance from Edinburgh Council outlines: “The Council’s position is that a cemetery is a place of burial and reflection for the bereaved.

“It is acknowledged that the issue described above is of significance to those directly affected and who have been distressed by owners allowing their dogs off-lead within a cemetery.

“Members will recall that they previously heard directly from deputations illustrating these concerns.

“Whilst acknowledging the significance of the concerns to the individuals, based on the relatively small number of complaints and the practicalities of enforcing a complete ban on dogs within cemeteries, it is not proposed to revisit or amend the current Cemetery Rules at this time.

“Bereavement Services staff continue to monitor the situation and will engage with users of the cemeteries, including owners of dogs and local residents, to encourage respect for the rules.”

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