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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Tynedale: Fight against dog dirt gains pace

DOG wardens have made their mark on Tynedale after it emerged they handed out on the spot fines to five irresponsible pet owners in Haltwhistle during December.

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Children from Little Oaks Nursery at Acomb First School put up posters asking dog owners to clean up after their dogs. Pictured are Penny Jackson and Natty Oakes, front, with other children behind.

Dog dirt has been the scourge of the district for several years, littering pavements despite repeated calls from local councillors for people to be more responsible.

But now Haltwhistle’s county councillor Ian Hutchinson believes the latest spot fines are a major development in getting the message across.

Speaking at Haltwhistle Town Council’s latest meeting, he said: “Dog wardens had been out and they had not been very successful, but before Christmas there were two on the spot fines of £75 for people who allowed their dogs to foul.

“They came out again on December 28 and another three spot fines were issued. Because they have now been successful, there will be a higher vigilance of this in the future. I have been wanting this to happen for a long time.”

Coun. Hutchinson receives many complaints about dog mess from across his ward, but says residents must be prepared to report individual offenders.

He explained: “The biggest problem is that people will not report dog fouling. They will tell me and they will tell members of the town council about dog mess here or there, but they will not report individuals.

“Therefore the county council dog wardens do not have any evidence to go on. It is the public’s fault as well as the people with the dogs.”

This week, Northumberland County Council’s deputy leader Dave Ledger, who has a responsibility for public protection, revealed there were 81 fixed penalty notices issued to offending dog owners last year, each amounting to spot fines of £75.

He added: “The council’s local services group has made tackling dog fouling and other environmental crimes a top priority and is increasing the number of its frontline staff that can issue fixed penalty notices.

“Dog fouling hotspots are being targeted across Northumberland all year round to ensure the small minority of dog walkers who continue to break environmental laws are caught.”

Mr Ledger said that money raised from the fines has gone towards the council’s annual dog rescue calendar, which is sold to raise money for dog charities in Northumberland.

News of the spot fines in Haltwhistle comes just weeks after residents in the town kicked up a stink by sending a map of areas most riddled with dog dirt to Hexham MP Guy Opperman.

The county council insists Haltwhistle, Hexham, Prudhoe and surrounding communities are “target areas” for dog wardens. It confirmed that in recent months, one spot fine has also been handed out in Prudhoe.

Offenders have 14 days to pay the £75 spot fines. If they don’t, the county council will take them to court, where they could face a fine of up to £1,000.

Dog fouling problems can be reported to the council on 0845 600 6400 or via email at ask@northumberland.gov.uk

An independent fight against dog fouling is under way in Acomb.

Community group Action4Acomb has launched its own dog fouling awareness campaign, which will include prominent stickers on litter bins in the village.

Children from Acomb First School and the village’s Little Oaks Nursery are actively involved in the campaign.

Nursery manager Catherine Fergus said dog dirt near the grounds of the school and nursery was a problem.

She said: “We’re issuing stickers to remind people they can use all litter bins, not just designated dog bins.”

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