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Campaign launched to save Shoreditch Dog House in Spitalfields from closure

PUBLISHED: 14:00 23 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:00 27 July 2018

Shoreditch Dog House founder Caroline Hand, 35, left, with Collette McLaughlin, 28. Pic: Rachel Burford

Shoreditch Dog House founder Caroline Hand, 35, left, with Collette McLaughlin, 28. Pic: Rachel Burford

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A campaign has been launched to save a dog crèche in Spitalfields after council bosses ordered it to move so the site can be used as a car park.

Campaigners are fighting to save Shoreditch Dog Creche. Pic: Google.Campaigners are fighting to save Shoreditch Dog Creche. Pic: Google.

Hundreds of people have signed a petition to keep Shoreditch Dog House following the demand by Tower Hamlets that it leave a piece of land next to Spitalfields Farm.

The dog day care owners say they have transformed the “derelict” tarmac area, which was previously a hangout for drug users, cleaning up the rubbish and needles to turn it into a family-friendly space.

But the council has insisted the company move because it has plans to turn the land, between a school and a playgroup, into a temporary car park for film crews.

Caroline Hand, 35, and her staff set up Shoreditch Dog House in a vegan cafe last year and have been training 10 to 15 dogs a day in the space in Buxton Street since April.

Shoreditch Dog House founder Caroline Hand, 35, left, with Collette McLaughlin, 28. Pic: Rachel BurfordShoreditch Dog House founder Caroline Hand, 35, left, with Collette McLaughlin, 28. Pic: Rachel Burford

They thought they could operate there — in a similar way to dog-walking firms in parks — as it is described in council documents as “public land”.

“We started in the Canvas café last September but quickly outgrew that space,” she said. “No one was using this piece of land so we set up there.

“The first thing we did when we got here was clear out a huge pile of rubbish. Every day we clean up the space. It used to be used for drug use and things like that but it’s not as prevalent now.

“There are two primary schools next door and a playgroup and they love seeing the dogs. We have had so many comments from the community about how great it is. We employ local people and are a community-focused business.”

Campaigners are fighting to save Shoreditch Dog Creche. Pic: Google.Campaigners are fighting to save Shoreditch Dog Creche. Pic: Google.

The crèche, which charges £32 for a full day of animal care, donates to Ricky Gervais-backed charity All Dogs Matter and buys food for local homeless people.

Around 400 people have already signed a petition to keep it where it is and this was handed to the council last week.

Amina Ali, Tower Hamlets cabinet member for culture and arts, said: “The council was not made aware of this land was being used for doggy day care therefore it is an unauthorised use of council land.

“We cannot support organisations that take over public spaces without permission. They should stop using this land immediately.”

But Ms Hand said that when she first set up she was visited by a health and safety officer who told her she did not need a licence to look after dogs. She added that she got insurance for the business and has not built anything on the land.

“We do want an official licence,” she said. “But we weren’t sure we needed one before we actually opened. We got insurance and the dogs are walked in Victoria Park.

“Nothing has been built on the land by us. If it’s thundering or raining really hard then we go to my home. We are staying here for the time being and have applied for an official licence.”

Brad Murphy, 40, who brings his dog Maggie to the crèche several times a week, said: “It would be devastating if it was closed. It’s become an important part of the local area. Maggie is not just looked after there, she is trained and gets to socialise with other dogs.”

A spokesman for Tower Hamlets Council said: “The land where the private dog care business has been operating is council owned and allocated as public open space.

“There is a proposal to create extra parking in the area for filming, which has not been agreed. Should this go ahead, it would only be temporary parking and not a permanent car park.

“The business has been operating on the land without permission. However, our town centres team have been seeking to support the business, and is continuing to speak with local landowners to see if an alternative location can be found in the area.”

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