River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The Village Pump Soapbox

June 2002

Pick it up!

Dogs' mess on the streets and playgrounds represent a major health and injury hazard:

* over 350,000 tons of excrement is deposited each year

* over 100 people, mainly children, have eye diseases caught by swallowing the Toxocara egg each year. This is caused by the parasitic roundworm in dog faeces.

An 8-year-old girl died in 1999, after a holiday in Devon, with a dog fouled beach being blamed for the fatal E coli infection.

But it doesn't only infect humans; it also affects your own dog!

Dogs smell it, roll in it, walk in it, and even ingest it. And, often, pick up serious diseases from it. Animal faeces are one of the most common sources of the following diseases:

* Parvo Virus is one of the deadliest diseases in the dog population, particularly among puppies. Gaining entry through the mouth, the virus attacks the digestive tract and kills cells that are critical in the absorption of nutrients. Severe fluid loss through diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to death. Parvo also temporally affects a dog's immune system and can lead to heart failure in some young dogs.

* Whipworms are bloodsuckers, tunnelling into the wall of the intestine for their blood meals. Vomiting, diarrhoea, and weight loss are common symptoms, and in large numbers, these parasites can cause anaemia. Difficult to diagnose, they are even harder to eliminate because they are often present in large numbers.

* Hookworms are bloodsuckers attaching to the intestinal wall where they suck plugs of the intestinal tissue into their mouth structures. Anaemia and/or intense inflammation can result. Hookworm infections can be passed to humans.

* Roundworms (ascarids) can affect the lungs and digestive system, with typical signs being vomiting and diarrhoea. Convulsions can occur with heavy infections and the disease can spread to humans.

The best way to prevent these, and many bacterial infections dogs can acquire from stools, is to keep current on all your vaccinations, faecal examinations and deworming. Also pick up waste before it rains as this breaks up and scatters the faeces and allows the worms and germs to spread.

How big is the problem? Estimates put the British dog population at around 6.8 million, producing 1000 tonnes of excrement per day. A Tidy Britain Group survey found that 80% of people questioned were "greatly concerned" by dog mess, an indication that problems caused by dog fouling are all too common.

Under recent legislation a local authority can designate land upon which it is an offence not to clean up after your dog. Your local authority enforces this power and can tell you whether it covers your area. The maximum fine for an offence is £1,000 (level 3 on the standard scale). Alternatively, councils have the power to issue a £25 fixed penalty fine.

Byelaws can also be made by local authorities to impose dog bans, make dog fouling an offence and insist that dogs be kept on leads.

If you wish to take action against a dog owner who has not cleaned up after their dog, you should note what happened as soon as possible. Include the name and address of the person in charge of the dog, a description of the dog plus details of the date, time and place of the offence. Contact your local authority and ask for details of their dog control procedures. Clearly describe the place being fouled to find what regulations cover that area. Ask how the authority takes enforcement action. If fouling occurs at regular times, it may be possible for a dog warden or officer to witness the fouling and take action accordingly. In many cases the local authority will warn the offender before taking legal action and this warning may be sufficient to deter further offences.

If the local authority decides to prosecute an offender you may be asked to make a statement. You will have to name the person concerned and give information about the offence. An officer will assist you with your statement. The court must give a copy of your statement to the offender if requested to do so. If the case goes to court and the offender defends their actions then you may be called as a witness and have to explain to the court what you saw.

Your local authority has a legal duty to keep certain types of land, which come under its control, clear of dog faeces (so far as is practicable), irrespective of whether byelaws are in force. These areas include parks, recreation grounds, children's playgrounds, sports grounds, tourist beaches and promenades, picnic sites, pedestrianised areas, pavements, verges, footpaths gutters and carriageways.

Telephone your local authority's cleansing service with details of the fouled place. Ask if there is a formal procedure for dealing with complaints. They may be able to send you details. Confirm your complaint by letter, repeating the information. Always keep a note of the name and job title of the person you have spoken to and make copies of letters so that you can follow up your complaint if no action is taken.

If the mess is not cleared within 7 days, repeat the above procedure and send copies of your letter to your local councillor, the chairman of the committee responsible for cleansing services and the chief officer responsible for cleansing the area in question. Usually a formal complaint is sufficient to get your local authority to take action. However, if that is not effective, under legislation contained in section 91 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 a member of the public can take legal proceedings against their local authority to get litter and refuse, including dog faeces, cleared away.

* Environmental Protection Act 1990 section 89 (1) and (2)

* Litter (Animal Droppings) Order 1991 - Made under section 84 (14) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990

* Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996

* Statutory Instruments Nos 2762 and 2763

* DoE Circular No 18/96 (Welsh Office No 54/96)

All available from The Stationary Office: Tel: 020 7873 9090, Fax: 020 7873 8200.

Responsible owners do not allow their dogs to foul public places. Ideally, dogs should be trained from an early age to 'go at home' in their own garden before or after a walk, rather than during. If dog fouling does occur away from home the responsible owner will clean up after the dog. Any suitable plastic bag can be used, or special poop-scoop bags can be purchased from pet shops, veterinary surgeries or stores. Dispose of faeces in a poop-scoop bin or take the bag home. If this is not possible, as a last resort double-wrap the faeces in two plastic bags and dispose of in a litterbin.

Simply place a bag over the dog mess and lift it whilst pulling the bag downwards. Or use two pieces of cardboard to "scoop the poop" and put it in the bag. Tie a knot in the bag and dispose of it in a poop-scoop bin or take it home for disposal. Your hands do not come into contact with the faeces. When you get home give your hands a wash anyway!

Mike Mann

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