Shaftesbury Town Council has joined forces with local dog walking service ‘Mooches with Pooches’ to provide free dog poo bags for pet owners.
Businesswoman Caroline Humphrey contacted the Town Hall with her proposal to fund two dispensers because she had noticed that there’s more dog mess around town than there used to be. “I think it’s progressively getting worse,” said Caroline.
Thirty years ago, people were not generally told to clear up dog mess. Today all responsible owners know that they should remove it. Caroline is unsure why it is becoming an increasing problem in Shaftesbury. “I don’t know whether people are being lazy, or whether people are just in a rush. So, when they’re running out of the house and they are wanting to get the dog out for a walk, they’re just forgetting to put that poo bag in,” she said.
Caroline accepts that not everyone will do the right thing. “There’s always going be people that don’t want to do it. If the majority of people try, then hopefully it’ll influence others to keep it clean.”
Caroline says that she intervenes when she sees someone not cleaning up after their pet, although she has learned that there can be a genuine reason for not picking it up. “Sometimes you find that people have really hurt their back and they can’t bend over. We’re more than happy to help out and I think the majority of people would,” she says.
It is a small minority of people who are giving responsible dog owners a bad name, in Caroline’s view. “People who haven’t got dogs, who see it outside their houses, are thinking that every dog owner is going to be the person that’s left it and didn’t clean it up. That isn’t the case. It’s just a few,” said Caroline.
In her experience, dog poo on the pavements is not the greatest problem, either. “In fields, people seem to think they can leave it. It causes problems with cattle – some serious medical issues if they eat it,” explained Caroline. “If you’re walking and you’re not expecting it in the grass then it is on your foot. You can see it when it is on the pavements.”
Caroline thinks some people simply forget to take enough bags out with them. “They get out and they’ve got the wrong jacket on or they’ve not got as many bags as they thought and they get caught short. It got me thinking, if there was some sort of dispenser, you can grab a bag,” she said.
Caroline contacted the Town Hall to offer to fund two dog poo bag dispensers and their supply of bags. Town Clerk Claire Commons welcomed the approach. “The Council was so thrilled with the idea, they’ve not only matched it but exceeded it by saying that they would provide another six throughout the town. We will work with the grounds team to find the best places for those to go,” said Claire.
Two locations have been chosen already. “Mooches with Pooches had identified the area of Wincombe Recreation Ground, opposite the entrance to the primary school. Also, there is a dog waste bin on Mampitts Lane by the large sycamore tree opposite the allotments,” said Claire, who is hoping that eight dog poo bag dispenser sites around town will reduce the dog mess menace.
Council staff will now identify the next six places where they will be installed. “Members have asked that I work with the grounds team to identify those locations. If we find that some aren’t being used, we can move them around,” said Claire, adding, “The two dispensers provided by Mooches with Pooches is at their expense. We are looking to spend between £50 and £100 pounds, depending on the robustness and size of each dispenser unit.”
Councils have the authority to pass by-laws and set fines for dog fouling but that’s not always a solution, because someone still needs to catch owners in the act of being irresponsible. “The difficulty is enforcing it because you have the burden of evidence, which isn’t just ‘here is dog poo’, but ‘whose dog?’ and ‘who’s the owner of the dog?’ We’d much rather that people were responsible and picked up,” said Claire.
Some authorities have introduced dog ban areas, but Claire isn’t sure that is the answer here. “As Shaftesbury is developed, more and more houses are going up. There are more people and likewise more dogs and less green space to walk them. So, if the Council starts saying some areas are ‘no dog’ areas, that makes it even harder for people to find places to walk their dogs and they’ll end up having to get in the car,” said Claire. “Enclosed play areas for children are dog free areas, but everywhere else at the moment the Council wants to keep dog-friendly.”
Caroline says she is also baffled why people pick up after their pets and then toss their filled dog poo bags into a field or trees. “Sometimes you see that people have thrown them. You think ‘why bag it and then throw it away?’ It doesn’t really make sense.”
We won’t have to wait long to see whether the dog poo bags and dispensers do make a difference. “In a couple of months, they should all be in place,” said Claire.