A local council has granted itself the power to fine dog owners £100 if they leave home without a doggy poo bag, regardless of whether or not their dog actually fouls a public area. Dog lovers have called the rule a “sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
Owners who challenge the £100 fine face a penalty of up to £1,000 if taken to court, but Daventry District Council, which introduced the fine, believes that the rules are “not unreasonable” as owners ought to be able to prove how they intend to clean up after their dogs.
The council’s two enforcement officers have not been granted stop and search powers, but under the new Public Space Protection Order, it will be an offence not to produce a bag when asked, the Telegraph has reported.
“We still have a small minority of persistent offenders that we are keen to stop,” Mike Warren, health and housing portfolio holder for the council said.
“This new order gives us greater powers to take effective action against those irresponsible dog owners who do not pick up after their pets.
“These new powers are not intended to penalise the many responsible dog owners in our district, who should be assured that our officers will be taking a common-sense approach on their patrols.
“It’s not unreasonable though, for example, to expect someone who has just arrived at a venue to walk their dog to be carrying poo bags.”
The council has insisted that the fines are “not a money making scheme”, and point to the results of a consultation on the topic, in which 73 percent of the 834 respondents were in favour of the scheme.
However, Lee Paris, campaigns officer at Dogs Trust, said the approach was “a sledgehammer to crack a nut”, adding: “The overwhelming majority of dog owners do pick up their dog’s mess. We’re unclear how such a blanket policy, which is likely to require significant resources and enforcement, will be effective in reducing the instances of dog fouling in Daventry.
“Dogs Trust would instead rather see time and resources spent on tackling irresponsible dog owners who are behaving in an anti-social way.”
This is far from the first time a council has waged war on persistent dog foulers. In 2012 Hyndburn Council in Lancashire handed its enforcement officers night vision goggles in a bid to catch owners letting their dogs foul the pavement under cover of night. The officers were also allowed to wear plain clothes and granted the use of surveillance vans to aid their efforts.
Councillor Miles Parkinson, leader of Hyndburn Council, at the time said: “Dog fouling is a major issue for us. It’s horrible to step in something unpleasant when you are out for a walk.”
His colleague Ken Moss launched a campaign urging the government to let council raise instant dog fouling fines to £1,000, although this was ultimately unsuccessful.
And in 2013 Stafford Borough Council tried a different approach, offering rewards of £75 for people who were willing to report their neighbours for allowing their dogs to foul, paid for by fining dog owners £75 on the spot.
Frank Finlay, cabinet member for environment and health, said: ”The public have backed our zero-tolerance stance from the very beginning. They have told us who, where and when, and this has helped us fine offenders.”