Dog fouling is becoming a real nuisance again in Nunney, even inside the enclosed children’s playground. Can you help stop our village looking a mess?
The area where the worst problems with dog mess have been reported in recent months also happens to be the most popular stretch with tourists.
But now there are reports that someone is taking their dog through the gate of the playground by Nunney Village Hall to leave “poop of elephantine proportions” and not clear it up.
More dog mess was reported on the doorstep of 1 Market Place, in Quarry Gardens and by the duck flats.
It is not clear, however, whether the problems are caused by villagers, tourists or some of the many dog owners who drive to Nunney for the sole purpose of relieving their pooch.
There is as ever an ongoing issue of dog owners not picking up after their pets. It’s been particularly problematic in recent months on Castle Street and around Nunney Castle.
The grass on both sides of the path that leads from the castle gate to the wooden footbridge is often littered with dog poo. Another problem is that of dog owners throwing poo-filled plastic bags into the shrubbery.
Hours before Nunney Fayre volunteers also had to remove huge piles of dog mess around the castle, on the banks of the moat where thousands enjoyed live music.
“There is a sign near the bridge already but I have contacted Mendip to see what else can be done. It’s such a shame to have this in any village, let alone one as pretty as Nunney,” Nunney Parish Council’s clerk Beverley Palmer told us.
“I am sure all pet owners are aware that if they are caught not collecting there could be a fine of up to £1000 – not sure it has ever been enforced though.”
A short walk around the centre of the village found dog poo across a stretch of the Market Place, on the bridge, in Castle Street, next to the moat of Nunney Castle and outside the castle’s perimeter wall.
The problem is not limited to this area, however, with Donkey Lane, Old Quarry Gardens and the area around the village hall and children’s playground also littered with dog mess on a regular basis.
Ron Warwick lives in Castle Cottage next to the castle. He told us, “Although the large piles left on the grass suggest that mainly large dogs are to blame, there are many incidents of fouling from smaller dogs too. But these tend to be left on the ungrassed areas.”
“When the lawn service attend they usually just cut grass around the droppings,” he added. “The fouling has been going on for over a year now and in the past I have written to Mendip District Council but my letter remained unanswered.”
“I have suggested that the Council may like to consider purchasing a camera that could be mounted discretly nearby.”
He showed Visit Nunney an example of such a camera on http://www.naturespy.org/2014/10/ltl-acorn-5210a-review/.
Research shows that even putting images of staring eyes on warning signs can significantly increase the percentage of dog owners cleaning up after their pet.
Gordon Hedges, owner of The George at Nunney, also has problems with dog fouling on his recently completed new terrace by the brook.
“We welcome pets at The George, not only in our waterside terrace and walled garden, but also inside our bar area,” he explained.
“We would ask any guests with pets, who dine al fresco, to keep the outdoor area’s clean, however, as we have many diners in our outside areas as well as children who like to play on our terraces.”
There are over 7.5 million dogs living in this country and they produce over 10,000 tonnes of poo a week – enough to fill 4 Olympic sized swimming pools.
It is anti-social not to clear up after your dog and if you’re caught leaving dog poo behind in a designated area, you could be served with a fixed penalty notice.
A person in charge of a dog who does not clear up after it fouls in a public place could face a fine of up to £1000.
Nunney Castle and the banks around its moat are private property, owned by Robbie Walker and managed by Historic England (formerly English Heritage).
But under section 57 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, a Dog Control Order can be made in respect of any land which is open to the air and to which the public are entitled or permitted to have access (with or without payment). The castle and surrounding area would qualify for that.
By clearing up after your dog, you can prevent the spread of some very nasty infections and diseases.
Dog mess can contain one million microscopic Toxocara eggs. Toxocaris is highly infectious, especially to children. Typical Toxocaris symptoms include dizziness and nausea, asthma and epileptic seizures. More seriously, it can lead to serious eye damage, even permanent blindness.
In a report by Dr S. Gillespie, (November 1993), he noted approximately 100 cases diagnosed each year, with 50 having serious eye damage. Nearly all were children, who had contracted the disease as toddlers. There is no known cure or treatment.
54% of dog owners neither buy nor use worming tablets on their pets. Dog mess also harbours parasites that can harm farm animals, especially cows and sheep.
Keep Britain Tidy completed research into dog fouling in 2002, and compiled a profile of the typical inconsiderate dog owner. The research was conducted to understand better the attitudes towards not clearing up after a dog, so that it could be attacked in a public media campaign.
Using a wide ranging number of surveys during 2001 and 2002, Keep Britain Tidy believe that they have identified the behavioural traits of dog foulers. Although this profile is a generalisation, the same comments and attitudes to irresponsible dog ownership regularly came to the fore.
The profile shows that they would clear up after their dogs if they were shaken or shocked into it. Keep Britain Tidy have called this segment of the public ‘justifiers’ as they justify their behaviour largely on the grounds that they don’t know what to do, and that everyone else is doing it.
Typical quotes from this segment include: “what do you want me to do?”, “if you’ve got a dog, it has to go somewhere”, “everyone else is doing it so why not me?”, “you can’t be watching your dog all the time”.
The research revealed the following profile:
- Justifiers are more likely to be male than female. They are found across all age groups with just a slightly higher proportion being between the ages of 18 and 24.
- Justifiers are found to be of all social classes.
- They only admit that they allow their dog to foul in a public place when pressed.
- They all know that they could be fined, but the majority did not believe they would ever be caught.
- Typical quotes include: “It could be £50,000 (the fine), but who is going to enforce it?”, “I doubt it (being fined) would ever happen”, “I don’t know anybody who has been fined”.
After testing a number of advertising images on dog owners, it was found that shock tactics and the link to toxocariasis was the most thought provoking and had the most impact.
In the research, justifiers claimed that they would change their behaviour and clean up after their dog if they were told how to do it, and if the dangers of dog excrement and its link to toxocariasis were articulated.
Keep Britain Tidy’s successful dog fouling poster campaign which reduced dog fouling by 40% following the campaign.
“The only permanent, long term solution to the problem of dog fouling is accountability through DNA,” according to StreetKleen, a company that traces culprits through a simple DNA test.
The firm is the UK representative of the PooPrints™ programme, which it claims is a fool-proof tool in enforcement of dog waste policy through positive identification with DNA.
The process uses a painless and non-invasive cheek swab to capture DNA from dogs. After analysis by a veterinary laboratory, the DNA results are added to a worldwide database.
Owners of registered dogs are unlikely to offend, StreetKleen claims, but providing DNA samples is not compulsory and there are costs involved.
“PooPrints provides the evidence needed to enforce local dog policy,” the firm told Visit Nunney. “We would love to help demonstrate how the new approach of DNA would benefit dog owners and non-dog owners alike in Nunney.”
The Environmental Protection Team can provide advice or may investigate nuisances caused by dogs on private land. They can be contacted at on 0300 3038588 or by e-mailing [email protected].
The Dog (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 came into force on 1 May 1997. This Act means you are legally obliged to clear up after your dog if it fouls any land which is open to the air, and to which the public have access.
It is every dog owner’s legal duty to clear up after their dog. You can make this easier by thinking and planning ahead. For instance, you can:
- encourage your dog to make its mess in your garden (if you have one) before going out for a walk
- take what you need to clear up any mess (for example a ‘pooper scooper’ from the pet shop, or a small trowel and a plastic bag)
- ‘bag and bin’ any mess your dog makes – but do be sure to bin it at home, not in a public place
- never let your dog out unsupervised when it needs to relieve itself.
Registered blind people are not required to clean up after their guide dogs. There is also exemption for dog owners on some kinds of public land, including:
- Land used for agriculture or woodlands
- Rural common land
- Land that is predominantly marshland, moor or heath
- Highways with a speed limit of 50mph or more
How to report dog fouling
A spokesperson for Mendip District Council told us, “Dog fouling is an offence and offenders can be prosecuted. Please report irresponsible dog owners to 0300 303 8588.”
“We ask for as much detail as possible – time, date, location, description of dog and owner – so that the dog warden can monitor the area.”
Sadly, several dog waste bins provided by Nunney Parish Council have been stolen in recent years. We hope that the recipient appreciated such an unusual gift.
The government’s own website GOV.UK states that “the local council must keep public areas like parks, playgrounds and pavements clear of dog mess.” But what does this mean in practice?
Authorities can authorise contractors such as dog wardens to enforce the scheme. Authorities can also agree to give the powers to other designated persons such as parish councillors. There is no requirement to provide signs or dog waste bins, although Nunney Parish Council has provided both.
Islington Council was criticised after it spent £134,000 employing a team of 22 dog mess wardens, but issued just 26 fines in three months.
The costs of imposing fines are typically much higher than the revenue from fines will cover – a mute point at a time of stringent budget cuts.
In 2002, Mendip District Council made an order under the The Dog (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 which states that the council can enforce against owners who allow their dogs to foul in public spaces and parks, on a limited number of public footpaths and on pavements or roads covered by a 40mph speed limit or below.
The order was made so that limited resources could be used most effectively to target the areas which have a greater population and which are more likely to be used by pet owners.
Educating dog owners
The new Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, however, of which parts have already been implemented, replaces dog by-laws with a new, simplified system which will enable local authorities and parish councils to deal with fouling by dogs in almost any public area.
It also allows councils to ban dogs from designated areas or require dogs to be kept on a lead. This new act forms part of an enforcement review Mendip District Council is currently undertaking to determine how it will be put into place.
The focus appears to be more on educating dog owners than fining them.
Keep Britain Tidy found that the biggest factor in changing people’s behaviour is campaigning – people need to be reminded that they have a duty. That’s why the organisation launched a campaign called The Big Scoop.
Pet owners are also advised that if a dog bin is not available, then animal faeces can be placed in a normal litter bin providing it is tied up in a bag or wrapped in newspaper.