Public Spaces Protection Order on Dog Controls
To consider the findings of a 3 month public consultation on a Public Spaces Protection Order for Dog Controls (dog fouling, dog exemption areas, dogs on leads areas) and make recommendations to Cabinet.
Huw Owen presented the report and answered the members’ questions.
The majority of non-dog owners say that fouling is a problem, but dog owners don’t seem to see it as a problem – they are the ones that we need to address. It will take perhaps 18 months to bring any orders into effect – is there anything that can be done sooner than that? Could existing littering laws be utilised?
It was basically a 50/50 split between owners and non-owners as to whether fouling is a problem. It’s encouraging that half of dog owners recognise the problem, as does Dogs Trust. There is existing legislation relating to dog fouling i.e. the designation order that makes it an offence for a person responsible for a dog to not pick up after it, covering pavements and public footpaths, etc. The legislation is enforced to some extent; in recent years we have issued some fixed penalty notices. Enforcement will no doubt be a matter that we need to consider in later reports, if and when a PSPO is introduced: who enforces it, who has authority to give fixed penalty notices. In recent years we have taken the approach of raising awareness of the problem (which we will need to continue doing). The positive of a long process is that the process itself raises awareness.
One concern is exclusion areas e.g. parks, for reasons outlined in the report. Another concern is future consideration: are there adequate resources to police this, from a council perspective? Will there be more designated walking areas? Will the council have funds for more areas in the towns? Will other applications be put to the back of the queue in the future?
Currently, environmental health officers and officers in the waste and street cleaning sections are authorised for enforcement. We don’t have any officers solely with this duty doing patrols. We tried this over 10 years ago and found that it was not cost-effective. Moving forward, the number of authorised officers will depend on what the stakeholders want in regard to leads areas and exemption areas – do they want these, and how many? We have engaged in early discussions with the manager of the civil enforcement officers responsible for double yellow line parking – there is potential scope for these officers to be included. Police officers might also be included.
Enforcement is essential. When raising awareness we need to ask people “Are you prepared to pay extra for dedicated officers for enforcement?”. If 50% of owners don’t believe that people should pick up after their dogs then the use of fines is justified.
50.5% of the 931 dog owners who responded said that dog fouling is a problem – it doesn’t mean that the 49.5% don’t think that dog mess should be picked up. Importantly, 87.2% of owners and non-owners support a control requiring mess to be picked up. Yes, the point about dedicated officers is acknowledged. Dog fouling is fairly infrequent and the chances of catching someone are low – having a dedicated officer walking the streets each day might not mean that anyone is caught, especially considering early morning and night-time walks. So, the number of authorised officers will need to be very much led by what the stakeholders want, which would be a subject for further discussion.
Enforcement is a concern – how can we police it? It would be better to have something and then look to try and enforce it rather than not having anything in place.
For enforcement, we are also reliant on local solutions for local problems. If there is a particular area where there is a problem, and the PSPO covers that as a dogs-on-leads or exemption area, then we are reliant on information being given to us by members of the public, particularly related to offences at regular times. This intelligence will enable us to make a more proactive response.
We have had an extensive discussion today on the feedback from the public consultation process, which is the 2nd report on this matter, the first having been considered by the committee last year. There are several distinct issues we have discussed today, which are:
1) Dog Fouling: We have to consider whether we apply the ‘Pick it up’ slogan universally, because if we don’t apply this universally, we would need to specify where it applies and where it doesn’t ~ this will have a cost implication in terms of signage. We need to consult with private landowners such as Woodlands Trust for their views.
2) New offence: The introduction of a new offence to not put a dog on a lead of 2m when asked to do so by an enforcement officer.
3) Dog designated areas: we have invited comments on dogs on fields, sport pitches, parks, children’s play areas and cemeteries. In summary, the public consultation favoured dogs on leads as opposed to dog exemption areas and we had helpful feedback from the Dog’s Trust.
Some of the issues we discussed were the practicality of enforcement and the cost implications. Officers have advised that it’s not for Environmental Health to decide which areas should be dog on leads areas or dog exemption areas. It should be for the land controller/owner to decide this, taking into account the views of stakeholders and town and community councils.
The next stage will be to engage with stakeholders and then produce a draft a PSPO. The Council will then undertake a further public consultation and report back to the committee.
Enforcement is a major concern of the committee. Perhaps CCTV could be used for picking up a regular offender in the same place. Councillor Easson expressed concern for further measures being needed between now and the PSPO coming in, particularly relating to the problem with fouling around Castle Park school.
The committee supports the recommendations in the report and thanks the officers for their extensive work on this matter, because it is an important topic that the public will undoubtedly have a major interest in, so our efforts to engage them fully on this are much appreciated.
- PSPO Report 10.3.22, item 3. PDF 211 KB
- Appendix 1 Public Consultation + Results, item 3. PDF 253 KB
- Appendix2, Dogs Trust Response 13.8.21, item 3. PDF 123 KB
- Appendix 3, Future Generations Evaluation, item 3. PDF 132 KB
- Background Paper, Report 12.3.20, item 3. PDF 88 KB
- StatutoryGuidanceFrontline, item 3. PDF 521 KB