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Page last updated at 12:21 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 13:21 UK

How serious a problem is dog fouling?

Dog fouling warning
Signs indicate areas outlawing dog mess
Councils are being ticked off for using CCTV to catch dog owners that don't clear up their pets' mess. So how big a problem is dog fouling?

You've seen the signs warning of 500 or 1,000 fines, but dog mess seems to be one anti-social behaviour that won't go away.

Now councils are using CCTV to catch owners that don't clear it up.

Local Government Association chairman Simon Milton said such "trivial" offences should not be tackled in this way.

But for many it's a serious blight on their enjoyment of public space. And it can cause toxiocariasis, a worm infection that in extreme cases can cause blindness.

Father-of-five Douggie Sorley, who lives near Chorley, Lancashire, says he sees it every day.

"I have young children and I find it quite disgusting when you walk along the road and they're playing and there's dog litter there.

"You can catch diseases from it and I don't see any problem using CCTV to catch the offenders."

There are more than six million dogs in the UK
They produce 900 tonnes of faeces a day
Dog fouling costs councils 22m a year to clear up
Ocular larva migrans is the kind of toxocariasis that can affect the eyes
There are on average 12 cases each year
SOURCES: Defra, Dog Trust

On a recent trip to Lake Windermere, his six-year-old son stepped into some so he became shoeless for the rest of his trip as the dirty trainers went into a plastic bag in the boot.

In England and Wales, the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 allows authorities to designate any land in their area as a place in which owners must clear up any mess from their dogs.

The land must be publicly accessible and open to the air but cannot include roads with a speed limit of 40mph or over, or farming land. The normal on-the-spot fine is 50 but this can rise to 1,000 if contested in court.

Different laws govern Northern Ireland and Scotland, where the maximum fine is 500.


The attack on councils for using CCTV comes as the Dog Trust launches its annual National Poop Scoop Week, which urges dog owners to "Grab it, bag it and bin it".

The trust's veterinary director Chris Laurence says the aim is to encourage responsible dog ownership - such as offering prizes for people spotted poop-scooping - rather than punish.

"At the end of the day, trying to enforce this sort of legislation by draconian measures will get you nowhere because there are not enough CCTV cameras to catch everyone."

Over the years, many councils have tried to help by providing dog bins and some have sent wardens into parks to give out free "poop scoopers". But others have tried an approach that's more stick than carrot.

If you haven't got a nice, tidy, litter-free location then other things happen because it looks like an area that is uncared for
Ginette Unsworth
Keep Britain Tidy

Responding to concerns raised by residents that not enough was being done, Edinburgh City Council sent a mobile CCTV van into problem areas for day-long patrols over 10 weeks.

It issued 17 fixed penalty notices, but part of the plan was also to hand out leaflets and have a highly-visible presence to act as a deterrent.

"The north dog fouling initiative was a resounding success, with 13 fixed penalty notices issued for dog fouling and increased awareness among residents and dog owners of the need to clean up after their dogs," says Councillor Norman Work.

"This crackdown has done a great deal to boost the profile of the wardens across the city and beyond."

Keep Britain Tidy poster
A hard-hitting campaign reduced offences by nearly half

In Edinburgh the number of fines issued has halved in the last three years and this is a trend that seems to be reflected nationally, according to Keep Britain Tidy.

It says a hard-hitting awareness campaign in 2002 reduced it in some areas by 40%, but it's still a huge quality of life issue that figures highly on any list of gripes.

"Litter and dog fouling are the first steps on a rung of different issues," says spokeswoman Ginette Unsworth.

"If you haven't got a nice, tidy, litter-free location then other things happen because it looks like an area that is uncared for.

"Vandalism comes, people don't go there, drug dealers move in and it's a downward spiral."

Below is a selection of your comments:

It's a problem for me as someone lets their dog foul everywhere on the private footpath at the back of our terrace houses and you can't walk down there without tip toeing! I've put a sign up but it still happens. I would love to catch who ever it is on CCTV.
Rob, Tunbridge Wells

As a dog owner I totally agree with picking up dog mess. My problem is how cat owners can seemingly get away with their cats fouling all over the place (including my garden), with no redress.
Sarah , Milton Keynes

I'm a responsible dog owner having two Labradors, I always pick up after my dogs, but how do councils expect to encourage people to pick it up when there are no bins ? Glossop like everywhere else in the country is cutting down on public bins and people are happy to pick it up if they can bin it in the area - if there are no bins not everyone takes it home. Councils have to provide a service not just cost cut to pay pensions
Robert, Glossop

I have two dogs and always have plenty of bags at the ready for any outing. Supermarkets own brand nappy sacks are ideal. Cheap and sometimes fragranced they take up no space at all. Even if there are no bins immediately available, it's no great hardship to carry your dogs little present back home. One word of warning, these little bags get everywhere. You'll find them in the most ridiculous places. I've even fished one out of the back of the telly.
Dan, Doncaster

It is disgusting, people know they won't be caught and so they don't care. The fines need to be much high to act as a real deterrent, some where in the region of 10% of gross income would be a fairer fine, with higher fine for repeat offenders. Alternatively we could have a dog tax.
Richard, London

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