VILLAGERS have been urged to take the lead in the fight against dog fouling.
Residents in Widdrington Station have complained about a recent increase in dog mess being left in the area by irresponsible owners who fail to clean up after their pets.
And at this month’s parish council meeting Northumberland County Council Dog Warden Andrea Cowans was invited to speak to councillors and members of the public about what can be done to address the problem.
She said that there are patrols in the area to try to catch the culprits, and a dog owner in Newbiggin was recently taken to court and fined £290 after neglecting to scoop the poop.
However, she said that residents must play an active part in the controls by reporting those responsible.
“We need people to come forward,” she said.
“Most people just ring up and say the mess was there when they got up in the morning. We do patrol, but we can’t be there all the time and it is just pot luck if we catch someone. We have to be there at the right time.”
The officer said that if people can give times and dates, as well as descriptions of the irresponsible dog walkers, targeted surveillance can be carried out to try to catch them.
Coun Shelly Willoughby said it will take just one high-profile prosecution to warn others that they must clean up after their dogs.
She said: “A few years ago the main problem was strays, but there aren’t as many now.
“I don’t know if it is because there aren’t as many Heinz 57 varieties of dogs now, there are more designer dogs as a status so people are not so willing to let them out on their own, but there is still a problem with some owners and we need to highlight it.
“The park is a vital area for the kids to play in, or even for people walking through to go to the Co-op or wherever, so we don’t need dog fouling there.
“If we can push people to inform us it will be better for everyone. Maybe people aren’t aware that people can be prosecuted for this.
“If there was somebody prosecuted the message would go out to everybody else that it is not just a notice on a lamppost and it is not just something that happens somewhere else, it happens here.
“If somebody’s pocket is hit hard it does send the right message.”
Parish Chairman Joe Sennett asked for more visible dog warden patrols, and Coun Jacek Juszczyk suggested that sessions in schools could be the answer.
“Do you have a programme of education for young people and do you go into schools?” he asked Ms Cowans.
“That is where the pressure can be put on families and parents. It is a bit like smoking. Just as the kids say please don’t smoke, they can say please don’t leave your dog’s dirt around and pick it up immediately.
“They could maybe do a project of some sort and perhaps put pressure on anyone in the community who allows their dogs to foul.”
Ms Cowans said she would be willing to go into Grange View First School if invited to work with the children.
She also left free bags for dog walkers to use to clean up after their pets and the council agreed to pass some on to the school.