“Oi, mate. You better just watch your step!”Advertisement
Seriously, in a completely non-confrontational way, you need to watch your step – there’s an epidemic of dog mess on Preston’s streets.
Whether you’re jogging in the evening and a dog has kindly painted the underside of your trainers a fetching brown or you’re on the school run, desperately trying to slalom your children around freshly laid dog eggs, navigating Preston’s streets can feel like a particularly disgusting Krypton Factor challenge. From personal experience, walking up Black Bull Lane each morning can be a real minefield, if the mines were piles of dog waste.
The subject has, unsurprisingly, elicited a strong reaction in local online groups with numerous posts naming and shaming those who don’t clean up after their dogs. One recent Twitter post requesting information about a repeat offender has so far been retweeted more than 3,700 times and garnered over 1,300 responses.
Mooted solutions in these groups ranged from raising awareness of the law to new owners, increasing the number of waste bins, spray-painting the offending ‘items’ to outright returning the poop to offenders by catapulting it into the owner’s homes/faces.
One recurrent theme among commenters is a sense of frustration with a perceived lack of enforcement. While dog fouling is classed as an environmental crime that potentially carries a £1,000 fine along with a criminal record, convictions are rare – a 2019 article in the Lancashire Post reported that over 1,700 reported cases of dog fouling in Chorley resulted in no prosecutions.
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When contacted for comment, Councillor Peter Moss, Preston City Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: “The majority of dog owners and dog walkers act responsibly, always picking up after their dogs… Unfortunately there is a minority in Preston who don’t do this. Their actions spoil our communities and environment for everyone else.
“Dog mess is extremely unpleasant and can pose health risks to young children and the vulnerable. We know this issue is a priority for residents but our small team cannot be everywhere across the city at the same time. We need the public’s help in reporting incidents to us and providing any information they have about anybody they’ve witnessed not picking up after their dog; this helps us build a picture of hot spot areas where we can target our limited resources.
“Failure to immediately remove dog waste is a criminal offence, which can result in a fixed penalty notice or prosecution. If people are caught, rest assured that action will be taken.”
Although the issue has been escalating steadily for a number of years now, there has been a huge increase in dog ownership during lockdown with London seeing a 101 per cent increase in pet ownership and other areas of the country following the trend.
Exacerbating this, recent research showed over a quarter of new owners hadn’t made plans for their dog once lockdown was lifted, and that almost three quarters hadn’t done any research into puppy training, socialisation or behaviour. The knock-on effect of this surfeit of new, unprepared dog owners appears to have been a corresponding increase in dog waste and problem behaviour in dogs.
Now, this correspondent isn’t locked away in some ivory tower, shielded from the harsh realities of the good people of Fulwood, so I took to the streets to observe the issue first hand.
While walking my dog in Highgate Wood, I photographed 13 discarded poop bags and a huge amount of unattended dog mess (it was wisely suggested I shouldn’t photograph that). Some of the bagged waste was literally within view of a bin; it really did seem like owners had wanted to do the right thing but fallen at the last hurdle.
Just on a personal note, if there is anyone reading this who has, or is thinking of bagging and then hanging dog waste from a tree, please get in touch to explain your thought process; there’s no judgement here, I’m very much approaching this from a place of intellectual curiosity.
If you want to report dog fouling in your area, you can fill in a form on the Preston City Council website.
What do you think is the best way to reducing dog mess – community engagement and education, greater fines and enforcement measures, volunteer drives to collect waste and rubbish? It’s not a problem that’s going away on its own, so is a fresh approach required? Let us know in the comments.