Dog owners in Wirral are increasingly ‘doing the right thing’ when it comes to picking up after their pets, one year after the council began its zero tolerance approach to enforcement of dog fouling laws.
Enforcement officers working for Kingdom, who are the council’s enforcement partners on litter and dog fouling, say they are impressed by how many people they see instinctively pick up their dog’s mess when they have fouled in public.
Their observations back up the council’s own, long-held view that is a small minority of irresponsible dog owners who give everyone a bad name when it comes to this issue.
More than 200 people received fixed penalty notices during the first year of Kingdom’s enforcement of dog fouling laws in Wirral – 227 in total, between 9th May 2016 and 8th May 2017. This is in part down to information given by members of the public which gave officers the intelligence to target their efforts on specific areas where the problems are.
Now into the second year of the enforcement contract, Wirral Council is shifting its approach slightly in an attempt to change the behaviour of the minority who still don’t pick up.
A pilot project in four Wirral parks where there are dispensers in place giving out free dog poo bags has proved successful. These dispensers are currently situated at Dibbinsdale, Royden, Harrison and Victoria parks, but more are due to be installed at other parks in the coming weeks.
Providing owners with a free supply of bags helps to remove one of the most common excuses enforcement officers hear when they catch an offender; that they forgot to bring their own bag on a walk.
Cllr Phillip Brightmore, Wirral Council’s Cabinet member for Environment, said: “It is great to hear that so many of our residents have such pride in their neighbourhood and would not dream of leaving any kind of litter behind. Taking personal responsibility for what happens to your own rubbish when out in public is absolutely the right thing to do.
“The deterrent is now well-established and I think most dog owners know that not only is it wrong to leave dog mess behind, but they will also be fined on the spot if caught doing it.
“But the kind of behaviour change we need to encourage amongst this small irresponsible minority is likely to take longer to achieve and we need to come at it from different angles, not just the deterrent angle. This is why we are providing the dispensers, partly funded by the proceeds of fines, enabling everyone to do the right thing.
“Seeing bags readily available will hopefully encourage them to take one and pick up after their dog. Or at the very least it will make them realise that it is the right thing to do – and there can be no excuses. We expect responsible dog owners will also remind them of that fact.”
As well as being part-funded by the proceeds from environmental enforcement, there are also sponsorship/advertising opportunities on the dispensers themselves which help to pay for the installation and supply of bags.
Cllr Brightmore adds: “Once bagged, dog mess can be put in any public bin. And there are some 4,000 out there across Wirral and many of them situated in the areas where most people visit. If there isn’t a bin immediately to hand, carry it with you until you come across one.
"Don’t, under any circumstances, think it is an acceptable alternative to leave bagged dog mess behind or hanging from a tree. This is still an offence and if caught you will still receive a fixed penalty notice for littering. Not collecting and disposing of your dog's waste is irresponsible and disgusting. Enough is enough.”