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Canine Faeces

Volume 114: debated on Tuesday 7 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the pilot scheme to test the effectiveness of the byelaws relating to the removal of canine faeces.

On 2 September 1985 new byelaws came into force in four local authority areas which made it an offence for a person in charge of a dog to fail to remove any faeces it might deposit in designated parks, recreation grounds and open spaces. The authorities were the London borough of Barking and Dagenham, Gosport borough council, North-West Leicestershire district council and Rochester-upon-Medway city council. Gosport and Rochester-upon-Medway also adopted similar new byelaws for footways and grass verges adjacent to the carriageways of highways. The four local authorities conducted a pilot scheme to test the effect of the new byelaws.We have placed in the Library a copy of a report prepared by a steering committee of officers from these authorities and Home Office officials which has been monitoring the scheme. The report concludes that, because the parks and other controlled areas are now much cleaner than before the scheme began, similar byelaws should now be offered as models for adoption by other local authorities in England and Wales. It is also clear from the report that the success of the scheme has depended on the willingness of the local authorities concerned to allocate the resources necessary for publicity, waste disposal and enforcement, and above all on the hard work they have all put into making the byelaws work.Taking account of the results of the pilot scheme we have now considered in greater depth whether to offer the new byelaws as models for adoption by other local authorities. In reaching our decision we have applied the tests of whether it is both reasonable and necessary to subject dog owners to these byelaws, whether such an obligation is capable of enforcement and whether if enforced it is likely to be unreasonably oppressive in its operation.Applying these tests we have concluded that the proposed new byelaws for parks, recreation grounds and open spaces should be made available to local authorities as model byelaws, provided there is somewhere else people can exercise their dogs without having to clear up after them. There is s strong case for allowing local authorities to apply these controls to such areas if they wish to do so. The alternative could, in rural areas, be local areas of countryside. We hope that before deciding which areas should be controlled local authorities will ensure that their proposals are well publicised in their localities and will where appropriate consult local organisations of dog owners and other residents. We would not approve the new byelaws for areas such as heaths and woodlands and areas used by horses and grazing animals, because it would be unreasonable to expect people to clear up after their dogs there. We are willing to allow the new byelaws for the whole of parks which are completely, or almost completely, used as children's play areas and sports grounds, even if they are not enclosed, and even though alternative areas do not exist.Different considerations however apply to the proposed new model byelaws for footways and grass verges. It would be an unreasonable burden on a dog owner to expect him on pain of prosecution to comply with the new byelaws whenever he took his dog out for a walk. We have also concluded that there would be grave difficulties associated with the enforcement of these new byelaws. We can also foresee the risk of serious disputes between dog owners and other users of footways and grass verges. We have therefore decided that we are not prepared to confirm further the new byelaws as in the pilot scheme in so far as they relate to footways and grass verges, but district and borough councils will continue to be able to adopt and enforce the existing model byelaws which make it an offence for a person in charge of a dog to permit it to foul such areas.Local authorities can do much by enforcing the revised byelaws for footpaths and applying the new byelaws to some parks and recreation areas. They can also promote campaigns to encourage dog owners to comply with the law. A number of local authorities have done so, and in the longer term public education of this kind is more effective than recourse to the criminal law. We are therefore issuing a circular to local authorities to draw their attention to the valuable experience gained from the pilot scheme and the criteria which will be applied in considering applications for the new and revised byelaws. We hope that this will assist councils to deal effectively with the fouling of public areas by dogs. We are also inviting the local authority associations to submit comments and suggestions relating to the details of the operation of the byelaws.

We are grateful to the four local authorities which conducted the pilot scheme for making this action possible.