A dogpatch in the north west of England could be opening to the public next year after it was declared safe to visit.
The Dogpatch is one of two dog parks in the world to be officially declared safe for visitors after being declared “safe to visit” by the UK’s health regulator.
A spokeswoman for the Dogpatch said it would reopen in May, after a “very rigorous assessment” by Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
“The dogs will now be allowed on the premises for their own use and will be supervised,” she said.
“This is in line with the recommendation from the UK National Health Service (NHS) and the guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).”HSE has warned that there is a risk of infection from dogs and people touching them in public, which it said is a “potentially life-threatening situation”.
However, it said it does not consider the dogs at the Dogpitch to be a danger to the general public.
“It is not a case of the dog being an animal to be treated as a threat to human health,” it said.
Dogpitch dog park spokeswoman, Sue Martin, said it was “very exciting” to open to the “world’s first dog-friendly dog park”.
“We know dogs and humans interact, so we want to be respectful of that,” she told BBC Radio Wales.
“We are not trying to put people at risk, but it is an experience for our guests to come and see dogs and play with them.”
The Dogpix was opened in 2014 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the film The Great Escape.
A spokesperson for the UK Dogpatch Association said it hoped the new opening would give visitors “a wonderful opportunity to see the wonderful dogs of the Dogpatters”.
“The Dogpatting experience is something we all know and love, so our hope is that it will become a truly memorable experience for everyone,” they said.
The spokeswoman said it had been “very busy” in recent months with an “ongoing appeal” from people wanting to try their hand at the new attraction.
“The number of people wanting access to the dogpitch has gone up by leaps and bounds,” she added.
“Many people have been to the site to visit us for our anniversary celebration and have also come back and said they loved it and would do it again.”
The NICE guideline issued in April 2017 said that “a dog can be exposed to levels of infectious diseases (if) they have been exposed to a human person, animal or contaminated food”.
In its recommendations, the organisation said that the number of dogs allowed in the park at any one time should be limited to two per person.
“When the number is reduced to that number, then the risk of contracting a disease is reduced significantly,” the guideline said.HSE spokesman, Steve Taylor, said the “highly-trained and professional” staff at the park were “absolutely delighted” to reopen.
“I think it is absolutely fantastic, very exciting,” he said.
“It’s just great to be able to see that dog park again and hopefully have the opportunity to do it.”
He said the park would now be able open to visitors on a limited number of days, including Sundays and public holidays.
“On top of that, we’ve got a really good group of staff working very closely together on the day and week-to-week planning and everything we need to do to get the dogs safely to the dogs,” he added.
Dogpatch’s dog park spokesperson, Sue Martins, said that while she had heard about the plans for the park, she did not know how long the park was going to remain open.
“There’s no set number of hours, but we’re trying to do things the right way,” she explained.
“That’s really what we’ve done is have a really rigorous assessment of the park and we’ve had to have a lot of people come and say, ‘Oh, I don’t know how we can be of any help’, and I think it’s going to be really important that we all work together to make sure that we get it right.”
The DogPitch was first opened in 1973 as a dog park and now has more than 2,500 dogs, including a golden retriever.