Shropshire Council is consulting on fines for dog owners whose dogs poo in a public place

The council is consulting on the most draconian anti-dog rules in Britain.

One of the most punitive rules being proposed is to fine dog owners if their dogs poops anywhere that the public can access, even if the public pay to access the land, even if it is cleared up.

There is a welcome prospect of dog owners being fined if they don’t clear up poop. Shropshire Council has had these powers since 2013 but it hasn’t used them more than a few times. The proposed Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) will extend the power of issuing a fixed penalty notice (FPN) to a wider range of council officers and the police.

The council also plans to insist that dogs being walked on the highway are on a lead no longer than one metre. That’s difficult if you own a large dog.

Given our experience of parking fines, we can expect zealous enforcement of new rules.

Extract from the PSPO proposal

The most contentious issue is the council’s plan to slap a fixed penalty notice on a dog owner whose dog poops anywhere the public can access. This applies to fields to which landowners have given access and to an owner whose dog poops at a dog show. It applies to fields let out to allow owners to exercise their dogs on a lead. Pooing on what remains of the Foldgate Lane field will be subject to a fine. These will not be fines for failing to clear up the mess a dog has left. They will be fines for the audacity of allowing your dog to poop in an area where the public has access, even if you pay for that access, even if it is cleared up.

The council is also proposing that dogs must be on a lead on the highway. It is already an offence under the Section 27 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to walk a dog without a lead on a public highway. Shropshire Council is aiming to extend the national prohibition by fining dog walkers if the lead is longer than one metre. Many dog walkers will find that length impractical. My border collie for example measures 70cm from collar to the beginning the tail. Add 20cm for the back legs. She often pulls and is always ahead of me. A one metre lead would lead to me stumbling over the dog. I can only assume that the councillors and officers pushing this forward own chihuahuas, if they own a dog at all.

These measures will be rigorously enforced. Fixed penalty notices can be handed out by the police, community support officers, civil enforcement officers, designated council officers and employees of other delegated organisations. Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) routinely slap penalty charge notices on vehicles in Ludlow Town Council for the slightest infringement of parking rules, even if motorists are not aware of the restrictions. I have a nightmare vision of CEOs asking to measure the length of a dog’s lead. “Sorry, the lead is 10cm overlength. Just wait while I take photographs and issue you with a fixed penalty notice.”

There are no formal grounds for appeal against a fixed penalty notice (FPN). A person who receives an FPN can challenge it in court if they believe the penalty should not have been issued to them. If they lose in court, they could be liable for a fine of up to £1,000. Most will pay the FPN fine of £100.

These measures will have a significant impact on the visitor economy. Many dog owners use the park and ride service to get into town. If after a journey to Ludlow, the dog needs to poop, the owner could be fined if it does so on the park and ride site or the NHS field alongside, even if they clear the mess up. If the dog poops in the town centre where there will be more observation, a fine will be issued. Like with parking fines, visitors who are fined will not come back to our town again.

The council says there is an exemption to the proposed rules for “registered assistance dogs”. I do not know how this will work because there is no national assistance dog register in UK (though there are private schemes).

By putting forward such an ill-thought out Public Space Protection Order, which is supported by opposition party leaders, Shropshire Council is bringing public authorities into disrepute. It is damaging its integrity and its relationship with responsible dog owners. It is undermining public support for the decent measures it is proposing. I can’t find any other council that has introduced such oppressive measures.

Fining people for not clearing up dog mess is long overdue. Fining dog owners if their dog poops in a public space is beyond crazy. Requiring dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead on the highway is fine. Insisting that the dog lead is no more than one metre long on the highway won’t work for owners of larger dogs.

The PSPO will affect the owners of around 11,000 dogs in the SY8 area and of 148,000 dogs across Shropshire. I urge everyone to take part in the consultation which is open until 21 December, even if you only bring your dogs to the county occasionally.

7 comments on Shropshire Council is consulting on fines for dog owners whose dogs poo in a public place

  1. Clearly the councillors are owners of small dogs and live in urban areas.

    Perhaps they should consider the health hazards in the rural areas of the county. What about horse and occasionally cow and sheep droppings etc. What about corpses on the road badgers, hedgehogs, rabbit’s, squirrels , rats, snakes, and the occasional deer.

    Why consider only one species to be a hazard? More thought needed I feel if the land is going to be made truly safe for human beings.
    Or is this plan just a nice little earner?

  2. This is a draconian proposal with all the indications of typically ill considered but in good faith. There are many aspects that would need to be properly considered. The key aspect is the appearance of a council attempting to alienate itself out of office by effectively saying that dogs are not welcome in our country. It is a normal and essential part of a dog’s life to poo. While many dogs have a ‘routine’, it is not the case for all of them. But generally the routine involves a grassy area such as a field or a public area. Most dog owners are responsible and immediately pick up their dogs mess and it is right to have legislation to address that. However until the council properly enforce the legislation that is on the books, adding further to that is just an irresponsible abuse of power. If it were ever to work, the cost of implementation would be a further abuse of taxpayers money and certainly be seen as an attempt to generate revenue from an already cash strapped population. The impact on tourism which the county heavily relies on would be significant as well. People visit the county with their dogs nd are in the main very responsible, but they will stay away in fear of being punished for a natural act that their dog must perform. Consider how an FPN could be effectively issued. An official witnesses this ‘crime’ and approaches the dog handler. There is no legislation to enforce a handler to provide formal identification. So giving a false address will almost be the case! There is no legislation that requires a person to accept in hand a piece of paper issued by some officer in the street. What a waste of time and effort all this will be. Given the suggestions that traffic wardens are incented to issue fines based on number of tickets issued per day/week/month will this not lead to a situation where officers will follow dog owners around just to catch them in the act? Shropshire Councillors need to consider the more important aspects of running the county for the electorate or risk losing their seats.

    1. There is legislation forcing people to reveal their identity is served a FPN:

      “It is an offence under sections 88(8A) and (8B) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 for a person to fail to give their name and address when required to do so by an authorised officer, or to give a false or inaccurate name or address.”

  3. Police will welcome this, if it goes through, giving them yet another reason on top of hate crimes etc. not to bother about theft, burglaries etc. Lawyers will like it too. ? Definition of public space. A landowner’s field is not one, nor is the enclosure at a dog show

  4. 1) if you get fined, whether you pick up or not, then many dog owners will simply not pick up. It does not encourage responsibility
    2) they will need to.employ a fair number of very fit “poo wardens” to monitor dog walkers on the Clees, Wenlock Edge, Long Mynd, Wrekin etc
    3) will “poo wardens” be able to issue fines for wrong length to the leads as well?
    4) will lead wardens all be issued with 1m sticks?
    5) what is the hourly rate for the “poo” and lead wardens or will they be paid according to the number of fines they issue?
    I could go on getting more and more facetious as I write!

  5. Shropshire Council does not seem to care that Ludlow visitors frequently come with their dogs knowing that Ludlow is a friendly place where dogs are accepted in 96% of shops and even some restaurants. What are they thinking of? Do they want to stop the very little business that shops are managing to survive on by encouraging visitors to go elsewhere, where their dogs are accepted and joyously welcomed, as they are currently here?

    A large number of Ludlow residents have dogs, we enjoy our dog friendly walks around town and on the walks out of the town centre. Are these to be a thing of the past, all due to. those who do not even live here?

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