A OWNERS OF dogs that foul any public space will be punished with £50 on-the-spot fines, the Government announced this week.
As part of the Clean Neighbourhoods Bill, community support officers and council wardens will be given powers to issue fixed-penalty notices to any person whose dog leaves excrement in public parks or on pavements.
These officers will be allowed to demand a person’s name and address, and anyone who refuses to do so, or who gives false information, risks a fine of up to £1,000. Under current law, it is only an offence for someone to refuse to give a name and address to a police officer.
Dogs found defecating in a public place without an obvious owner are to be treated as strays. Members of the public may report incidents to local authorities and council wardens will then pick up the dog and place it in a council pound.
Councils will have an incentive to enforce the new law because they will be allowed to keep the proceeds and use it for other community benefits.
Ministers hope that the Bill will complete its passage through Parliament before the general election — expected in May — and for the law to be enforced next summer although, like many Bills including the Animal Welfare Bill, its future looks uncertain.
There are already hundreds of council by-laws allowing authorities to take action against dog fouling, but their take-up and enforcement is patchy throughout the country. Between November 2003 and March 2004 there were only 1,376 penalties issued nationwide.
The new law seeks to streamline the position and for the first time the Bill will state that fouling by dogs is a form of litter in the same way as chewing gum and cigarette ends are.
The campaign will be popular with most people. A survey by Keep Britain Tidy found that dog mess disgusted 95 per cent of people. Last year councils received 53,000 complaints about the problem.
Some newspapers, reporting the story gleefully reproduced Tidy Britain’s statistics that, at present it costs local authorities some £22 million a year to clean up dog excrement. There are about 6.5 million dogs which, between them, produce 1,000 tonnes of faeces each day although not all, of course, produce this tonnage in public places, nor do all dog owners leave it lying around.