Dog fouling – a disgusting and dangerous problem
On International Dog Day let’s celebrate our hounds and doggos: they’re great companions and furry friends that bring their owners joy. We love dogs and the Labour Party has animal welfare at its heart. Unlike the Tories and Guy Opperman who recently scrapped their manifesto pledge to bring in an Animal Welfare Bill that would have included a ban on puppy smuggling and voted down Labour’s attempt to revive the legislation.
A less pleasant aspect of dog ownership is clearing up after them. A dog produces a startling 340g of dog mess a day. That’s 124kg of dog poo a year, per hound. Most dog owners are responsible and pick up after their beloved pets. But an irresponsible minority refuse to clean up their dog’s mess. This leaves behind an unpleasant and, in some cases, dangerous problem. Dog faeces can carry the risk of contracting toxocariasis, which in rare cases can lead to loss of vision and problems with the lungs and liver.
Dog ownership has increased since the pandemic. in 2019/20 there were approximately 9 million pet dogs in the UK. By 2021/22 that number had increased to 13 million. This has led to what has been described as a ‘dog mess emergency‘. According to one survey 1 in 3 dog owners don’t know that it is against the law for a dog to foul in a public place. Northumberland has one of the highest rates of dog fouling in the country and is in the top three areas with the most complaints.
A lovely doggo, but they’re poo machines
A problem in Prudhoe (and elsewhere)
Dog fouling seems to have increased all over Hexham Constituency with many of our towns, villages, beauty spots and countryside blighted by unpleasant piles of dog faeces.
The responsibility for clearing this mess up lies with the private landowner, but on public land with Northumberland County Council. Local councils have a responsibility to keep parks, playgrounds and footpaths free of dog mess.
A Freedom of Information Request to NCC by a Labour Party member in Prudhoe has revealed the following statistics:
- In the 12 months from Aug 2022-Aug 2023 there were 992 reported incidents of dog fouling in Northumberland
- Of these 992 incidents 81 were recorded in Prudhoe (approx. 8%)
- In the same period 18 fines for dog fouling were issued across the county (1.5 per month)
- Of these 18 fines none were recorded in Prudhoe.
In Prudhoe dog fouling seems particularly severe in Prudhoe South, especially in the wards of Prudhoe Hall and Halfway. We know from reports on local Facebook groups that dog fouling is a problem elsewhere in the town with residents reporting issues at Highfield Park, Eastwoods Park and in other areas.
Dog fouling is a real problem. If it’s blighting your community report it on Fix My Street.
Lamppost signage is no deterrent
Fines increase…. but where’s the enforcement?
Northumberland County Council have recently raised fines for dog fouling. The penalty for failing to clean up after a dog has increased from £75 to £100 (falling to £80 if paid within seven days). In areas subject to Dog Control Orders the fines can even reach £1000.
Increased fines are welcome but by themselves have no deterrent effect. Our lampposts are adorned with many ‘no fouling’ stickers that are routinely ignored by a minority of dog owners. The lack of enforcement is the problem. In 2022 Northumberland County Council’s dog wardens issued just 11 fines. That’s less than a fine a month.
Where, we might ask, is the enforcement of the law?
Part of the explanation for the lack of enforcement lies in the cuts that the Conservative government have made to local councils. Since 2009/10 funding from central government to local councils has collapsed by 21% in real terms, 31% in real terms if ‘Covid grants’ are excluded. Without this funding the services we all need to improve our lives and look after our communities are struggling. The blame for this situation needs to be placed squarely at the door of Guy Opperman and his Conservative Government and the Conservative Councillors locally. We need fewer performative displays (like stickers on lampposts and unenforced dog control orders) and more investment in the services we all need.