Irresponsible owners getting off with fouling

FOUL PLAY: A dog walker at Bishopwearmouth Cemetery. Below, councillors John Wiper and George Howe.
FOUL PLAY: A dog walker at Bishopwearmouth Cemetery. Below, councillors John Wiper and George Howe.
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IRRESPONSIBLE owners who fail to pick up after their dogs are escaping punishment – as just ONE fine was handed out during the past year.

By its own admission, Sunderland City Council concedes that dog fouling continues to be “one of the most consistent” issues raised by Wearsiders.

Coun John Wiper and coun George Howe who are both concerned by the number of residents and visitors commenting on the amount of dog fouling along the seafront at Seaburn, particularly on the grassy areas

Coun John Wiper and coun George Howe who are both concerned by the number of residents and visitors commenting on the amount of dog fouling along the seafront at Seaburn, particularly on the grassy areas

Yet figures obtained by the Echo reveal that a solitary £50 fine was given out in the last 12 months, meaning hundreds of owners failing to pick up after their dogs are escaping punishment.

The council has issued 90 advisory and warning letters about fouling, including many where the offender has been identified. But these act as warnings only.

The latest figures contrast sharply with those from the previous two years.

Between August 2011 and August 2012, 61 fines worth £3,450 were handed out, while in the same period in 2010 and 2011, 109 notices were issued totalling £5,250.

A number of dog fouling hot spots have been identified by members of the public.

The city’s cemeteries, including Bishopwearmouth and Mere Knolls in Seaburn, both popular walking spots for dog owners, have been littered with dog dirt, or bags containing excrement that have not been disposed of properly.

The seafront has also been affected by the problem.

Councillor George Howe, who represents Roker and Seaburn residents in his Fulwell ward, said: “I do think the current cuts facing the council are having some effects on the numbers being fined.

“Dog fouling has always been a problem, and we can’t afford to rest on our laurels.

“I do think more dog owners are starting to get the message and picking up after their pets.

“But a lot of these enforcement officers work nine-to-five when, in fact, most people are walking their dogs early in the mornings or after work at nights.”

Councillor John Wiper, also from the area, said a newly-laid path between Staveley Road and Cut Throat Dene has been littered with dog muck in recent weeks.

He added: “It’s important we crackdown on these irresponsible owners.

“It would also help to have enforcement officers working early and late shifts to catch these owners.”

Amanda Walker, 33, regularly walks her dog, Sugar-Pink, through Mere Knolls Cemetery.

She said: “Some people go to the bother of picking up the mess in a plastic bag, then dumping the bag on the ground. That happens all the time in the cemetery. It’s horrible.”

Councillor James Blackburn, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for city services, said: “Dog fouling continues to be one of the most consistent issues raised by the public.

“The council is currently reviewing its range of powers for controlling dogs and dog fouling.

“The council’s approach to environmental enforcement is about education and changing behaviours before resorting to formal action.

“In the last 12 months, the council has issued 90 advisory and warning letters about dog fouling and one £50 fixed-penalty charge.

“The council’s educational approach includes installing advisory signs and bins encouraging people to dispose of dog fouling responsibly.”

Anyone with information regarding dog fouling or any other environmental crime is asked to call 520 5555.