I strongly support Shropshire Council’s efforts to clamp down on cleaning up dog fouling. But the current proposals need a lot of improvement. In particular, the plan to fine dog walkers if their dog defecates in a public place are draconian and unworkable.
I am concerned that the council is creating grey areas where people will be uncertain about the rules. The proposals would have benefited from detailed scrutiny before being issued for consultation.
This is my draft response. Dozens of people have already provided me with feedback. I’d welcome more comments before I submit my final response.
I would urge all dog owners and dog lovers submit their own response before the 21 December deadline. If you are a visitor who brings your dog to Ludlow or anywhere else in Shropshire, you should also respond. Respond here…
Owner or walker?
The consultation refers at several points to dog owner and makes the owner responsible. This does not cover the situation where the owner uses a dog walker, either on a contractual or casual basis. It would be better to use walker, with the rider that the owner should be responsible when the walker is under 18 years of age.
Allowing dog fouling in the public area
This is draconian and unenforceable. No other council prohibits the act of fouling, understood here to be defecating and not to include urinating.
Issuing a fine if a walker’s dog defecates will undermine the primary objective of the PSPO – ensuring those in charge of dogs clean up any mess they leave in public areas. Should the PSPO include this measure, the council could expose itself to the risk of reputational damage.
Failure to appropriately remove and dispose of dog waste if a dog has been allowed to foul
I strongly support this.
The regulation should be extended to make clear that disposal must be in bin provided for the purpose or at the dog walker’s premises. This is to prevent an increase in poo bags hanging on trees and bushes or discarded in other public locations. Although these are littering offences, littering is rarely enforced. It will negate the purpose of the PSPO if people deposit the poo bag anywhere other than in their own bin or a designated bin.
Dog exclusion from play areas, equipped and fenced sports areas
Dogs are excluded from children’s play areas, Multi-Use Games Areas (MUGAs) and tennis courts. For example, a children’s play area that contains children’s play equipment such as slides, swings, climbing frames and similar apparatus and that is enclosed on all sides by fences, gates, walls or other structures that mark the boundary of the play area. The clear boundaries of these areas make it easy for people to identify the extent of the area where dogs are not allowed.
This is supported.
Dogs on leads by direction
This order gives authorised officers the power to ask for a dog to be put on a lead in situations where they are not under the appropriate control of their owner or where they are causing damage or acting aggressively towards other dogs or park users.
Dogs on leads on the highway
Dogs must be kept on a fixed lead (which includes a fixed extendable lead), of no more than one metre in length, when on or adjacent to the public highway, a footway, footpath or cycle track.
One metre is too short for walkers of large dogs. Not all dogs will walk alongside the walker. The walker’s legs need to be clear of the dog’s legs to reduce risk of injury to the dog and the walker. A length of 1.5m would be more suitable. However, the rule might be more effective if the restriction required dogs to be kept under control on a lead at all times. This would avoid disputes over the length of the lead.
Owners of registered assistance dogs are exempted.
This supported but clarification is needed on how it will work.
There is no national register of assistance dogs. There are some privately and charity run schemes. Is the expectation that dog walkers will carry proof of registration? Or will they have to prove a case after being issued with a fixed penalty notice? The latter process would be stressful for people with emotional and learning difficulties.
The Equality, Social Inclusion and Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA) accompanying the proposal states people “with a cognitive disability either may not understand the concepts around the restrictions that are proposed or may not be able to carry out the task of picking up dog faeces caused by their dog and disposing of it appropriately.”
What training will be provided to civil enforcement officers and others authorised to issue fixed penalty notices to ensure they understand the needs of disabled dog walkers including those who are deaf or have cognitive disabilities?
Has the council made direct contact with local and national organisations registering and supporting assistance dogs as part of the consultation?
In establishing a PSPO, appropriate signage must be displayed in accordance with the requirements of the Act on entry points to the public area and within the said area.
The intention is for the PSPO to apply to all areas that the public can access whether owned by another public body, privately owned or privately managed.
The scale of this task should not be underestimated.
In around Ludlow alone, permission will need to be sought from Ludlow Town Council, Friends of Whitcliffe Common, Plymouth Estate, Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Dinham Millennium Green Trust, Gallows Bank Millennium Green Trust, NHS Community Health Trust, several management companies looking after green space, and other landowners.
Across the county, the number of green and other spaces accessed by the public and not owned by Shropshire Council is very large. It is not clear that Shropshire Council has assessed whether it has sufficient resources to include these within the PSPO, to supply the required signage, and to enforce the restrictions in public areas away from the highway and areas it owns.
Orders can be enforced by a police officer, a police community support officer authorised council officers and employees of other delegated organisations.
This is supported.
All authorised personnel should be clearly identifiable with names or numbers on their uniforms or clothing and, if not officers in the police service or council community enforcement officers, show their authorisation on request.
Fixed penalty notices
A breach of the PSPO can be dealt with through the issuing of a Fixed Penalty Notice of up to £100, or a level 3 fine (max £1000) on prosecution.
This is appropriate and I support it.
When the PSPO proposal comes to Cabinet, it will need to be fully costed. The following factors will need to be considered:
- The cost of an increase in reporting of dog fouling though the Customer Service Centre and Fix My Street due to higher expectations that dog fouling will be reduced.
- The cost of negotiating with landowners and leaseholders of land not owned by Shropshire Council to include their land within the PSPO.
- The costs of signage across the county, including whether the cost of signs on land not owned by Shropshire Council will be rechargeable to others, which be a town and parish councils, leaseholders, charities, businesses and landowners.
- The costs of staffing to oversee the introduction of the PSPO, dealing with complaints and queries, and of processing fixed penalty notices and court actions.
- The anticipated income from fixed penalty notices.
I strongly support the principle of the proposed Public Space Protection Order. It needed greater scrutiny before going to cabinet and consultation. The overview and scrutiny system was set up precisely to do this. The results of the public consultation and the conclusions should be debated in scrutiny before going to cabinet.