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Britain’s parks and paths a dog’s breakfast


Councils are not doing enough to crack down on those who allow their dogs to foul in parks and on footpaths; and prosecutions have plummeted to just two per local authority per year, while complaints from the public have soared.

These are the findings of a report published this week by Keep Britain Tidy, which states that while just 754 people had been prosecuted by respondents through the courts over the last three years (191 last year compared to 301 in 1999-2000), councils have received an estimated 226,000 complaints about dog fouling during that same period.

The survey, which questioned local councils in England, also found that 64% of respondents hadn’t prosecuted anyone at all last year, 57% had issued no verbal warnings and 49% no written warnings against errant owners, while 16% only ever cleared up dog mess if someone complained about it.

While 67% had adopted a fixed penalty scheme to dish out on the spot fines of £50 to those caught allowing their dogs to foul, nearly 28% of these hadn’t actually issued any fines. And while some respondents provided up to 200 dog bins in their borough, 60% didn’t place any on their streets (despite the fact that fouling is found on 19% of streets in busy housing areas) and 67% failed to supply them on footpaths.

Nearly all councils (94%) do at least employ a dog warden - whose job is specifically geared towards responding to issues surrounding dogs. Although 92% of respondents are committed to educating their residents about responsible ownership and run campaigns, 84% employ only one or two wardens and 21% of these spend no time at all on enforcement, devoting the bulk of their time to dealing with strays.

Unsightly

These disappointing results are given extra significance by the results of another Keep Britain Tidy study of urban parks which found fouling at 23% of areas including close to entrances, next to busy walkways and around trees. Not only is this unsightly; it is a health hazard since up to 16,000 people per annum get Toxocariasis, a disease contracted by contact with fouling generated by un-wormed dogs or contaminated soil and which causes 50 cases of serious eye infection, each year.

Keep Britain Tidy is aiming to tackle the dog fouling problem by running a campaign to change the behaviour of irresponsible owners. The posters, which contain the organisation’s most controversial visual ever was launched by actor Ricky Tomlinson at a press conference last week.

The posters will be placed in over a thousand locations across England and Northern Ireland.

The central theme - to shock errant owners into cleaning up after their dog - was conceived after market research with this group, revealed that only hard-hitting messages would do the trick.

The organisation is also backing Government plans to reform the legislation on dog fouling, so that councils can keep any money raised from fines and plough it back into enforcement and education campaigns (fines currently go to the Treasury).

“Our research suggests as many as 4.6 million owners are allowing their pets to foul, citing reasons such as “you can’t watch your dog all of the time” and “everybody else lets their dog do it”” said Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive, Alan Woods. “Yet it is a fact that 95% of the public find dog dirt unacceptable and with the added public health risk, we clearly have to see a change in the attitude of the irresponsible owner and a much greater determination on the part of councils to prosecute those who allow their dogs to foul.

For our part, we will continue to press home the message that dog mess is morally unacceptable to millions of dog lovers and indeed the vast majority of society and will also liaise with Government to make sure the law is workable. The rest is down to councils to use the legislation and to every dog owner to make sure they clean up after their pet.”