Devon Dog Training recently moved into new premises in Upton Hellions on the outskirts of Crediton. We’re delighted that Daryl Cook the founder will be sharing his tips, thoughts and expertise regularly on this website. Here he tackles the subject of dog mess - always a hot topic on the local social media channels!
Cream teas, the weather, Euro 2020 and dog poo…all very much debated in Britain at the moment. Crediton is no exception. From community Facebook groups, to neighbourhood-watch-nominated poo patrols, there’s no avoiding that dog mess is a hot topic; the most unacceptable and offensive type of litter.
Not only is it a nuisance but it’s also potentially dangerous. Contact with dog excrement, particularly in children, can cause toxocariasis – a nasty infection that can lead to dizziness, nausea, asthma and even blindness or seizures. That’s why dogs are banned entirely from play parks and why many parents won’t allow dogs to poo in their own garden.
As part of the Crediton Town Council “Keep Crediton Clean” campaign, concerning dog fouling, the council says:
Dog fouling is unsightly, unpleasant and can lead to Toxocariasis in humans, which causes serious illness and even blindness. Toxocariasis is caused by a roundworm parasite and is spread from animals to humans through contact with infected faeces. It usually affects young children because they are more likely to come into contact with contaminated soil when they play and put their hands in their mouths. The best way to reduce the chances of anyone being infected is for dog owners to regularly worm their pets and pick up and dispose of faeces immediately.
There are around eight million dogs in the UK and those millions of dogs drop around 1,000 tonnes of poo every single day! And that poo? Well, responsible people are picking it up in a bag and disposing of it in the waste at home or in a nominated council bin. So I guess you could say that ultimately we are preserving organic matter in an ecologically expensive plastic bag and then sending it to landfill where it is prevented from decomposing! So there’s yet another debate.
So what happens if you decide that picking up the poo is too harmful to the environment? Well, you could well be breaking the law.
In Mid-Devon anyone who fails to clear up immediately after their dog can be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice of up to £1000 (the offence may be dealt with by acceptance of a £80 Fixed Penalty if appropriate). Should you witness mess on the streets, you can report the problem to the council who may come and clear it up.
Some councils, North Somerset for example, will fine dog walkers if they are not carrying poo bags, even if your dog hasn’t done one, with owners facing a £75 (falling to £50 if paid within 10 days) and a £1,000 fine if they prosecute.
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t get out of paying the fine if the pooch doesn’t belong to you either - otherwise dog walkers or dog trainers like myself could be littering pathways and none of us want that!
Keep Britain Tidy has campaigned very successfully on the issue of dog fouling. In 2010, they launched a campaign called ‘There’s no such thing as the dog poo fairy’ which was then also replicated by the National Trust. Yet, people still collect their dog poo in a bag and will leave it hanging on a tree or laying on a path right next to where the deed was done. This is just as bad as not picking up! I’m certain you’ve seen the evidence for yourself.
The only people exempt from picking up after their dog are those with disabilities that restrict their sight or mobility, including pet owners that are registered as blind. You can also avoid getting a fine if you leave mess in areas used for agriculture or woodland. But it is encouraged that you ‘stick and flick’ the mess away from the public path or from where someone may accidentally step in it or a child may touch it with their hands. The law also doesn’t apply on rural common land, marshland and motorways.
Now, there are many very clever inventions to make our poop scooping more convenient. For example, a retired engineer called Brian Harper launched his dog-poo powered biogas street lamp on the Malvern Hills. Walkers use free paper dog poo scoopy-bags and put it into a bin that feeds it into a biodigester which in turn produce methane to power a streetlamp that comes on at dusk! Now wouldn’t that be great if that could happen right across the UK?
However it doesn’t! So Mid-Devon Council has provided us with as many poo bins as we should need but if you think you’ve seen a need for more of them, then you can contact them to request a new one for your area.
Maybe the answer is to buy ecologically friendly poo bags instead? These ones from Eco Vibe are to be recommended. A lot of bags are marketed as ‘biodegradable’ but actually aren’t, and still contain plastic. But these ones can be added to any home compost that won’t be used on root, stem or leaf vegetables and can be put into industrial composting that can accept pet waste. If they have to go to landfill, they are 100% plant-based so will not release any toxic chemicals or micro-plastics into the environment.
So - that’s it. On our dog walks and training sessions we often come across poo bags disposed of on pathways, or poo just left in the middle of the pavement or footpath. Please be a responsible dog owner and pick it up - it really is better for all of us.