Hundreds of complaints to councils over dog fouling in our area... but no fines handed out
Irresponsible dog owners who let their pets mess on our pavements and in our parks got away scot-free last year, a Post investigation has revealed.
Despite receiving hundreds of complaints between them, Preston, South Ribble, and Chorley councils all failed to hand out a single dog fouling fine.
The figure emerged as 74 per cent of readers said they believe the issue should be made a priority, while councillors also expressed their concerns.
Coun Peter Moss, the deputy leader of Preston Council, blamed the minority for the “unpleasant” problem and, despite no fines being doled out across Preston last year, insisted officers “will not hesitate” to do so – if they have help from the public.
He said: “In Preston the vast majority of dog owners clean up after their pets. The council fully recognises that dog fouling is probably the most unacceptable and offensive type of litter on our streets.
“It is deeply unpleasant for people to come across and for our staff to have to clean up. That is why we have had a number of initiatives over the years to work with our local communities to tackle areas that had significant levels of fouling and to drive down the rate of offending.
“Our data shows that more than 99 per cent of dog owners in Preston now pick up after their dogs and where they do not then the council will not hesitate to serve a fixed penalty notice, or bring prosecution, where it has the evidence to do so. However, we need help of residents reporting it to us.
“Whilst the majority of Preston isn’t blighted by dog fouling, the council is not complacent on the issue. The council regularly works with responsible dog owners, who are also annoyed at the 1 per cent who do not pick up after their dogs, to target those who still cause a problem.”
Coun Daniel Duckworth, who represents Sharoe Green for the Conservatives, said: “The reporting process needs to be refined as, yes, we do get complaints, however it is more accurate intelligence we need as dog wardens can’t be expected to stand there 24/7 for the small minority.
“It is like a lot of things, where the majority of dog owners are responsible and clean up after their dogs – however, the small minority don’t.”
Coun Neil Darby, deputy group leader of the Lib Dems and councillor for Ingol and Cottam, said he was “very surprised” no fines had been handed out, and said “dog fouling is always in the top three issues that people raise with us” when knocking on doors.
He added: “I would suspect lack of funding is a major cause for the inaction, as the Labour group have cut the number of dog wardens across the whole city to just one. And I understand that even that dog warden is only employed during office hours, which probably does not constitute the peak hours for dog walking which will be when many incidents occur.
“The trouble goes even further than this though, in my experience. We recently had a dog bin removed from a footpath between Dunoon Close and Whitby Avenue in my ward - where many local dogs are walked - due to the bin being in a poor state. However, the bin has not been replaced despite requests for this to happen.
“It is clear that, despite the regular complaints from residents in the city, the Labour cabinet simply are not taking this matter seriously.”
Coun Duckworth said more bins are also needed on the Guild Wheel.
South Ribble Council, which launched a crackdown on fouling earlier this year by spray painting dog muck orange, received 573 complaints from the public last year. But it hasn’t had any dedicated wardens since 2007, when they became ‘neighbourhood officers’, and hasn’t handed more than eight fines in a single year since 2013/14.
The council said the number of neighbourhood officers - responsible for littering, flytipping, graffiti, school talks, other liaison roles, and carrying out inspections - has halved in the past decade “due to austerity cuts and vacancy management”.
A spokesman added: “The issuing of a fixed penalty notice (FPN) is only done if an officer observes the offence taking place first hand. If a resident makes a complaint and identifies a particular person, we will only issue an FPN once a witness statement has been completed by the complainant.
“If this is not received, we will not issue the FPN. All complaints of alleged environmental offences, including dog fouling, are investigated thoroughly and enforcement action taken when sufficient evidence is found.”
He said the council would not work with “anyone who could bring the council into disrepute, like dog wardens hiding behind bins”, saying he wanted a visual deterrent.
Coun Martin Boardman, leader of the Conservative opposition at Chorley Council, which had double the number of dog wardens in 2006 than it does now, said: “We have pulled the council up on this a considerable amount of times.
“The reason we get is that it’s difficult to enforce because they have to catch people in the act.
“We need men or women on the ground to do that and we are being told, because of the cuts, they have not got the staff to do that.”
Chorley Council handed out 55 fines after taking 535 complaints in 2013, and Coun Boardman asked why a similar proportion of the 1,159 complaints received last year did not lead to action being taken against offenders.
He added: “The man on the street cares considerably about it. It’s the topic that every councillor gets complaints about. It’s the biggest topic I think, that and emptying the dustbins “What we are finding is local communities have started tackling the issues themselves.”
Volunteers in Eccleston have created bag dispensers that are now dotted around the village, he said, while Mawdesley Parish Council has also invested in dispensers.
Chorley Council did not respond to requests for a comment.
A dog in Avenham and Miller Park
Readers have their say
Some 1,500 people took part in a Post poll asking whether the council should make dog fouling a priority, with 1,100 saying yes.
Danny Kay, who has three dogs, called on cameras to be installed in hotspots.
He said: “I’m sick and tired of seeing poo everywhere and telling my children to watch out for poo.”
Julie Daniel added: “I want to say yes, but I have reported the same area to the council multiple times - so has my sister and neighbours - and it’s still happening. All they do is come out put up more lamppost stickers.”
Others said there are more pressing issues that need to be tackled, such as crime, social care, and caring for society’s most vulnerable.
Sharon Courtney said: “I am a dog owner, I always pick up his mess. Whilst out walking I see a lot of mess that dog owners leave behind, which is disgusting, but I think there are greater issues in our area that should take priority, potholes for example.”
And Mark Robinson said: “I think there should be other local issues prioritised above dog fouling. Just take a look at local papers and media - key words ‘gangs,’ ‘machete’, ‘knives’.”
What’s the solution?
South Ribble’s orange spray paint ploy is just one of several quirky measures taken by regional authorities in a bid to tackle the scourge of dog fouling.
In Hyndburn in east Lancashire, council chiefs launched a ‘pooper snooper’ scheme, which saw amateur sleuths paid for taking pictures of guilty parties and reporting their details - with the first culprit collared not long after.
And neighbouring Wyre Council considered DNA testing dog muck in a bid to trace it back to its shamed owner before later scrapping the idea.
It has since drafted in private enforcers who handed out 17 fines in a three-month period earlier this year. In contrast, council workers have caught just 55 people in the past five years.
Council leader David Henderson said the authority wanted to have a visible deterrent and suggested other councils could follow suit.
He said: “There’s nothing stopping any other councils doing exactly the same.
“Instances of dog fouling increase in winter because it goes dark quicker. People who have been approached use the excuse of, ‘I couldn’t find it’.
“We are hoping we can stop that because the wardens will be out there.”
Coun Henderson also said spray painting dog muck in Wyre Estuary Park, in Stanah, led to a reduction in fouling, despite the authority getting “stick” over the idea.
This is how many dog fouling complaints councils received in the last five years (number of fines in brackets).
For Preston, complaints figures are by calendar year, while fines are by financial year.
2014 – 375 (3)
2015 – 280 (5)
2016 – 243 (3)
2017 – 264 (3)
2018 – 220 (0)
2014 – 856 (22)
2015 – 1,010 (16)
2016 – 970 (3)
2017 – 1,312 (6)
2018 – 1,159 (0)
2014/15 – 766 (4)
2015/16 – 788 (6)
2016/17 – 485 (7)
2017/18 – 573 (3)
2018/19 – 441 (0)