The Chron looks at a campaign which has been launched to tackle problem pet owners

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I THINK I can say, with some confidence, that no one likes dog poo.

They don’t like to see it on their pavements, they don’t like to smell it and they like standing in it even less.

Yet, if you live in Northampton it is pretty likely you will see it on pavements and in your parks fairly regularly.

And the reason for it is not too hard to work out; some dog owners simply do not clean up after their pets, and it is the rest of us that suffer.

But as of this week wardens will be out pounding the streets looking for these problem pet owners following the launch of a Northampton Borough Council campaign.

The campaign was officially launched in Eastfield Park on Tuesday to raise awareness of the issue, to encourage more dog owners to pick up after their pets and appeal to the public to report incidents.

Ruth Austen, environmental protection manager, said: “We will start off doing operations in various locations around the town, and targeting some hot-spots we are aware of.

“This can be a problem right around the town but if the public are concerned about particular areas then we ask that they bring it to our attention and we will get a warden out.

“We will be doing high profile patrols so that people will know who we are, to raise the issue.

“In the first instance people who are caught will be given a verbal warning and educational information, but if they are caught again we will move onto written warnings and Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) of £80, which if not paid could lead to a £1,000 fine.

“It is the persistent foulers we are after.

Campaign posters and lamppost stickers have gone up across the town as part of the three-month campaign, which will be reviewed after that period.

But it is the increased visible presence of the wardens that is seen as the real weapon against the problem.

The council’s neighbourhood wardens are accredited to issue FPNs for dog fouling, and its newly recruited park rangers are also undergoing accreditation training.

However, the main problem they face is that they have to catch people in the act before they can issue a FPN.

And after spending a short time with Eastfield warden Andrew Cullinane, patrolling his patch, it was clear he plans to take a tough stance.

“I used to be the dog warden and I know what a big problem it is,” he said.

“I think people have thought they can get away with for a long time and have stopped being responsible.

“Once they realise there is a visible presence and that they are not going to get away with it, I think it will make a big difference.

“It will be education the first time and we will give them a bag to pick it up with, but then it is a fixed penalty notice, no excuses will be taken.

“I think generally early mornings before people go to work are the worst times but we are not going to let people get away with it.”

Although the tough stance may not be welcome news to problem pet owners, many residents who attended the launch event welcomed the campaign.

Bernard Kelly, vice-chairman of the Friends of Eastfield Park, said: “The worst thing about it is going home and spreading it on the carpet.

“We do regular clean-ups. We do litter picks and every time they come there’s dog faeces and it’s something people are always complaining about.

“All sorts of people use this park, families, dog walkers, people running and exercising and it spoils it for other people.”

Ted Harding, who lives near Eastfield Park, added: “The problem is not just in the park. I see all around here at least once a week or more. A lot of people walk past the park and children on the way to school.

“It is just inconsiderate laziness.”

Councillor John Caswell, Northampton Borough Council cabinet member for the environment, said: “There’s no excuse not to clean up, as there are hundreds of dog-waste bins and even more general litterbins around the town.

“Not to clean up is a crime and we will be cracking down on it.”

If you would like to tell the team if you have witnessed repeat incidents or know of a particular problem area. Call them on 0300 330 7000 or email: ehealth@ northampton.gov.uk

SOME FACTS ABOUT DOG FOULING

Keep Britain Tidy research shows that dog fouling is a major concern to members of the public and that 70 per cent of local authorities have a problem in their local area.

In 2010 the UK dog population was estimated to be eight million, with dogs producing approximately 1,000 tonnes of excrement each day. In a recent survey of over 10,000 sites, dog fouling was present on seven per cent of these sites.

The highest level of dog fouling can be found in areas where people live.

There are 517 dog waste bins across Northampton as well as over 1,000 litterbins that can also be used to dispose of bagged dog waste.

Fixed Penalty Notices for dog fouling were introduced in October 2001. Since 2002, 128 people have been fined in Northampton.

Health Risks

DOG fouling is a crime that impacts on our environment. But it is not just unpleasant, it is also dangerous and carries parasites, that in extreme cases can cause serious illness, including blindness.

Vic Smith, is chairman of the Friends of Eastfield Park, has a degree in zoology and has studied parasitology.

“One of the main concerns about the faeces is toxocara canis, which is the name of the parasite which lives inside dogs’ bodies.

“It is a round white worm and it infects, most frequently, pregnant nursing bitches and young puppies.

“You can’t see them but they are sticky and can be picked up.

“They can settle in sensitive tissue such as the retina of the eye causing damage or even blindness.

“But I would like to impress that children can pick it up and be symptom-less or have mild symptoms and conditions, which people don’t always notice.

“In terms of serious conditions there are probably about 50 to 100 cases a year.

“But large numbers of children pick up the symptoms and have longer symptoms.

“It’s not when it’s fresh when it’s a danger but about three weeks later when they mature outside the dog and become infectious.

“The eggs of parasites can stay alive for years in the soil and it’s more serious than a lot of people think.

“The people most at risk are those playing sports or on the football pitches, as they fall on the ground and get mud on their faces.

“It can cause sickness and respiratory problems, among other problems and the parasites can get into the lungs.

“In Eastfield Park dog walking is the most popular activity and the majority of dog walkers are responsible and pick up their faeces but a lot is left lying around the playing fields and football pitches.

“This is when it is particularly dangerous as people fall down and get it in their faces and in their eyes.”

What the law says...

It is an offence to allow a dog to foul on public land, which includes paths, alleyways, parks and open spaces. It is the responsibility of the dog owner or the person in charge of the dog to clear up after their dog. Failure to do so can result in an £80 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), which if not paid could lead to prosecution and fine of up to £1,000.