I took part in the first official #SurreyHeathLive Google Hangout last night and despite a few technical hiccups it was a good event and offers the potential for many more local discussions and debates in the future. For this inaugural event the topic was Dog Fouling.
Due to the “technicals” the event was broadcast in three parts. First part involved a group discussion between Paul Deach (@PaulDeach), David Allen (@FrimleyGreenMan), Sue Helliwell (@housemisses) and myself (@Paul_J_Chapman).
We had a lively chat about the issues and some potential solutions, and I think were broadly in agreement that something had to be done and that a mix of education and subtle persuasion would work for the majority of dog owners that currently allow their pets to foul the parks and paths of the Borough, but that a more forceful approach – such as ‘name and shame’ photos of offenders or fines – was also necessary for those that cared less about the local community. Although there was some concern about the idea of photographing people and the possible legal implications of this.
After about 40 minutes the hangout stopped (unbeknown to Dave, Sue and myself!) and Paul continued for a little while by himself, reading and answering some of the emails and Tweets he’d received on the subject.
Then the third part the hangout reconvened with Paul, Sue and Kay (@Kay9services) a local dog trainer. Kay gave some really valuable insight into the problems and the legal position with respect to dog fouling. This part is well worth a listen if you are a dog owner – as there were some items that I didn’t know about, relating to when you have to pick up the mess. Interestingly she said that 100% of the people she’d spoken to were in favour of imposing fines and that responsible dog owners were as fed up as the rest of us with irresponsible people leaving mess in our parks and woodlands.
In summary what did we learn from last night . . .
- As a dog owner you are required by local bye-law to pick up after your dog in any open public space – that includes woodland, heathland etc. as well as parks and pavements – it applies irrespective of whether there are dog poo bins provided or not.
- Everyone on the panel was in favour of penalty fines for people who don’t obey the law. Either a council run team or possible outsourcing to the 3rd party agency.
- Education is also important, for children and adults.
What do I think should happen now?
Well I would guess that setting up some sort of team to enforce the rules and fine people is going to take a bit of time and with the shorter days coming it’s going to be more difficult to catch people (and their dogs) in the act. So an immediate measure would be some education and a leaflet campaign at our local parks and open woodlands to bring people’s attention to the rules. This gives people the chance to mend their ways before the enforcement teams are mobilised.
But it was clear from everyone on the panel that a tougher stance is needed and I really hope that SHBC take note and take some action in this area.
And in the meantime . . . tread carefully!