Dog fouling on outdoor recreation spaces is a problem that parish councils and playing field managers are faced with on a daily basis. The UK is a nation of dog lovers. Keep Britain Tidy estimates that in 2010 the UK was home to 8 million dogs, producing 1000 tonnes of excrement a day. 39% of households own at least one dog.
Overall levels of dog fouling have dropped since 2001, a finding mirrored by some playground inspectors as they conduct play area and playing field inspections across the country. However, it is still a nuisance for many people as the minority cause problems for the rest of the residents.
Regulations state clearly that it is the responsibility of the dog owner or the person in charge of the dog to clear up after it. Failure to do so can result in the imposition of a Fixed Penalty Notice or a fine of up to £1000 if the case goes to court.
Education of the owners is the best way of dealing with the problem. It is not always possible or cost effective to fence off certain areas. Indeed we would in general recommend not to fence in play areas unless the site demanded it—such as being next to a busy road. Policing the problem on a regular basis is not always feasible in a small parish that does not have the manpower of a larger council, and therefore education would appear to be key.
Different towns and parishes have come up with novel ways of dealing with the problem:
- Marking dog mess with small flags to shame the owners concerned.
- Introducing more poo bins
- Giving out free poo bags
- Involving the local school children in a campaign to highlight the problem, and in particular the diseases that can be carried in dog poo. The campaign included designing a poster to put up around the parish.
- Putting cones over every pile of dog mess found on the playing field. Over the course of 3 months, the amount of mess found reduced by 93%.
- Spray painting dog mess with a bright colour, to shame the owners.
- Nominating responsible dog owners for a monthly prize draw, and publicising the results.
- Continued publicity in parish newsletters to highlight campaigns to clean up the recreation ground.
It is clear that there is not an easy, ‘one size fits all’ answer, and each campaign involves time and effort.
The Keep Britain Tidy campaign has posters and bin stickers that can be ordered and delivered free of charge. They also have case studies on their website with some useful ideas.