Blaenau Gwent issues 1,099 dog mess fines in one year

A stencil on the pavement asking you to clean up after your dog Blaenau Gwent council uses a private firm to tackle the problem of dog fouling on the streets of its towns

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The number of fines issued for dog fouling in one area of Wales has soared from 10 to 1,099 in a year.

A private firm has been hired by Blaenau Gwent council to identify and fine people who do not clean up after their dogs. It is the only council in Wales to employ such a company.

A councillor said the "radical" step was taken by the council after it previously "failed" to stop the issue.

Anglesey and Powys councils did not issue any fines over the same period.

The figures were released as part of a Freedom of Information request by BBC Wales and showed Blaenau Gwent had the steepest rise in the number of fines for dog fouling.

In the county, offenders face a £75 fine and can be brought to court and ordered to pay up to £400 if they ignore the penalty.

Around 400 dog bins have been erected in the county in the past five years.

John Thomas and Sparky Retired miner John Thomas said he always cleaned up after Sparky

Independent councillor John Jones Hopkins, who oversaw the policy's introduction, said it was a response to years of criticism of the county borough as one of the dirtiest in Wales for dog fouling.

He said: "I have been a councillor for 21 years and we have failed over that time to tackle the problem. We have done all sorts of things that have had little or no effect.

"Against what we did before, anything that we did was going to be radical.

"Of course, we have been criticised because on occasions we haven't got it quite right, but one learns from one's mistakes. There has been a significant improvement.

"The message is getting out - how else are things like crimes to be stamped out without prosecutions?"

People in Ebbw Vale said they had seen improvements, but there was still an issue.

Retired miner John Thomas, 64, who has a border collie called Sparky, said: "There's less dogs' mess around than I remember but there's plenty of it around.

Garry White and Toffee (left) and Tiny Garry White said the council's approach was 'draconian'

"I have always picked up after (Sparky), so why shouldn't other people do the same? I'm on benefits but there is no problem picking up after your dog.

"The dog is not going to pick it up himself."

But semi-retired chartered accountant Garry White, 66, from Ebbw Vale, was less convinced.

Walking Toffee, a 13-year-old Shih Tzu, and Tiny, a Shih Tzu/Yorkshire cross, he said: "I am surprised that a socialist local authority should adopt such a draconian policy.

"I still see dog muck. The enforcement officers take photos. I believe they are in breach of people's rights.

"If they wanted to earn their corn, they should go out later. They would probably encounter people who would tell them where to go and not in a very polite manner."

Shirley and Jamie Caswell Shirley and Jamie Caswell said they were still 'dodging' dog mess on the school run

Shirley Caswell, 32, said they had not seen much change where they live in Abertillery.

"When I take the kids to school we are dodging it all the time."

"I have noticed [the council's policy] advertised but there are not enough dog bins.

"My dog is getting old now and she it not able to walk as far as the dog bins in either direction. When I take my dog for a walk, I have to take the dog poo back home with me."

Salvation Army worker Jo Walters, 45, of Cwm, said: "I've only been living here for 11 months but I have noticed a difference with other places. It's cleaner."

Blaenau Gwent introduced the new measure in October last year as a six-month trial. This has been extended for a further six months, when its effectiveness will be reviewed.

In a statement, the council said it was "determined to make sure that local people can enjoy clean streets, and we are therefore proactively enforcing littering and dog control offences, as well as raising awareness in our communities."

"We are pleased that we are making good progress in securing clean streets, as illustrated in a recent Keep Wales Tidy survey which found Blaenau Gwent to be the second most improved council across the whole of Wales."

We asked whether strong action was needed against dog fouling in your part of Wales.

Dog fouling is a serious problem here in Conwy County. There may be responsible dog owners, but I have not seen many. Occasionally people pick up their pets's waste, then - inexplicably - discard the mess further on by hanging it on a bush or throwing it on the path further on. Well done, Blaernau Gwent. but I think a more radical solution is called for. I should like to see an annual dog licence of, say £1000, with a reduction to £500 for pensioners.

Bill Chapman, Conwy,

Not one cat owner ever picks up the feaces their pet deposits outside. Given the number of cats in the UK this amount of faeces left on paths, in flower bed and childrens sand pits adds up to a massive amount.

D Dortman, Co Durham,

There are many responsible dog owners but they are far outnumbered by irresponsible ones meaning that 'green' areas should have specific areas for dog walking alone. Councils are not interested in 'policing' that these areas are used appropriately. Pontcanna fields is a hive of activity most days but mostly on the weekend for children and adults playing a multitude of outdoor activities. However the number of times that dog excrement is found while playing on these pitches is incredible, disgusting and a dangerous health hazard. Areas should be set aside for specific purposes and appropriate enforcement applied, a heavy fine is all that anyone understands these days. Well done to Blaenau Gwent council

Daniel Girardi, Cardiff,

We have a serious problem with dog mess, in my street. After several complaints, the council decided to put a bin on the lamp-post at the end of the street. It's still empty - as the owners at fault have failed to teach their stray dogs how to use a poop-scoop. More bins are not the answer.

Allan, Bargoed,

Well done Blaenau Gwent. Here in Brussels dog fouling is a massive problem which the authorities do nothing at all about. I wish they would as it is truly disgusting and dangerous.

Rhodri Thomas, Brussels,

: I have recently moved to Switzerland and I am a dog owner. One thing I have noticed here is the strict regulations on dog owners and lack of dog's mess on the streets (you very rarely see it). One great thing they do here is near most rubbish bins, they have free 'poo bag' dispensers. This encourages owners to pick up after their dog's as there is always a bin near by where you can get the bags to pick up the mess with. This could be a good thing to introduce in the UK. Also liability insurance is also *mandatory* for all dog owners (as well as training sessions for new owners - there are also a few other regulations which I wont go in to). These strict rules encourage dog owners to be more responsible and discourage those who are not capable/willing to take care of their dogs. I have noticed much less problems here in Switzerland compared to the UK so they must be doing something right!

MB, Pontypridd,

Fantastic initiative by Blaenau Gwent. I'd love to see something similar down here in Somerset. Glastonbury seems to be treated as a toilet by dog owners and it's disgusting. Shame there's no similar way to fine cat owners.

Steve, Somerset,

Everyone knows it is an issue but nobody want's to tackle it. From late night dog walkers, so they don't have to pick up the waste as no one sees them, to those who just don't bother to pick it up. Have walk around Marine lake in Rhyl. The responsible dog owner loses out. The dog bins are full. I think those who break our civil law should take the punishment. It's not the dogs fault but lazy owners.

Roger Pendleton, Abergele, Conwy,

I am a dog owner, and always pick up after my dog, as I agree it is a health hazard, however I have to wonder what can be done about all the cat waste that is left littering gardens, play areas, as this is a lot more dangerous and can cause blindness due to toxoplasmosis. However, don't think we'll be getting fines for cat owners anytime soon!

Rich Davies, Trealaw,

I wish Cardiff council would take note of this and employ a similar tactic, I'm forever tired of having to avoid dog mess as I walk home, I wonder how the owners would feel if they had faeces all over their pavement, unfortunately I do not have a dog but I'm sure I could improvise.

Gavin, Wales,

I am a responsible dog walker..walk my dog on a lead, pick up my dogs mess but when other dont it makes you mad. We have a lovely park by us and see people who walk their dogs off a lead and also leave their dogs mess makes you want to shout but no one listens. I have spoken to the local councillor and he did nothing about it. I think its time to bring back the dog poo squad.

Julie Harries, Gorslas,

Brilliant idea that should be done everywhere. I have two large dogs and always pick up after them, and I am constantly annoyed at the amount of mess people leave behind. I don't care if it's off the path and on the verge either, pick it up people! I don't want my dogs walking in it any more that I want my kids or myself walking in it. And you don't need a bin... bag it and take it home if there's not one available. Bins are good to have but should not dictate wether you pick up or not.

Andrew,

Every day there are people walking along our road with their dogs. Most people will clean up after themselves, but there are a small majority who will just keep on walking or looking into space trying to ignore that there dog has shit on the grass. Our property runs out onto the road with a small grassed area, which we maintain, and nearly every morning there is dog mess on it. We have complained to the council and been issued with signs to put up "Bag it and Bin it" but nothing further has been done.

Mary, St Clears, Carmarthenshire,

I clean up after my dog always! Value nappy bags are very cheap and fit for purpose. Here in Anglesey where there were no penalties handed out last year, there is a big problem with dog waste being left on beaches, coastal footpaths and promenades. This problem occurs all year round, so is as much caused by locals as visitors. Anglesey is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so I simply do not understand why people do not care enough to clean up. Then again, if there are no penalties being handed out and no chance of being caught maybe it is not so surprising. I have complained to the council but they do not have an effective system in place to deal with the problem.

Lisa, Holyhead, Anglesey,

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