Derek Robertson: lazy few letting down dog owners

All dog owners need to clean up after their pets. Pic: Ian Georgeson
All dog owners need to clean up after their pets. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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Edinburgh is a great city – one that attracts the world to its door year after year. It’s a city that quite rightly takes its place beside the very best and most significant capital cities across the globe, and as a result our tourism industry provides significant employment and revenue for businesses.

We need to hold on to and enhance that reputation.

That’s why, at the environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful, we welcome moves by Edinburgh City Council to clean up the city and make it as attractive as possible for residents and visitors. An important part of cleaning up is taking stronger action on the scourge of dog fouling – one of the environmental incivilities that offends people the most. In fact in our own survey, 69 per cent of people indicated that, for them, dog fouling was the most offensive of all.

Some progress has been made, but too often it is still the irresponsible few dog owners who continue to neglect our local environment by allowing their dogs to foul our parks, streets and beaches.

In its plans, the council is right to believe that significant new action is now needed to change behaviour. In fact, it’s surely time for a zero-tolerance approach.

When penalties for littering have been almost doubled in the last year, as part of a co-ordinated series of measures to reduce the levels of litter on our streets, in our view it sends the wrong message entirely for the penalty for dog fouling to have remained unchanged at £40. We need to have at our councils’ disposal a range of measures in place that can genuinely change behaviour amongst the irresponsible few.

The scale of the problem remains huge. As part of our “Ditch the Dirt” Campaign, volunteers have been monitoring dog fouling levels in randomly selected 100 metre stretches of street and park across Scotland – and on average, each survey has reported ten instances of dog fouling. That sends the wrong message to visitors about how proud we are of our country and its capital city.

Too often, we will be compared poorly to other cities across Europe. The moves to toughen up in Edinburgh are particularly welcome as this city has been one of the most active participants in our Clean Up Scotland campaign since its launch, where we have used a range of techniques to get the message out to dog owners that they should “Grab it, bag it and bin it! Any bin will do!” But the most important thing is that we get all dog owners recognising that they have a clear responsibility to do what is right for the environment.

Whether we name and shame the irresponsible, or double the civil penalties for dog fouling, Keep Scotland Beautiful will welcome all moves to get the whole community onside on this major issue for local environmental quality.

Edinburgh has magnificent streets, and access to some of the best parks and beaches in the country, but to keep it that way we need to work together.

Supporting moves to tighten regulations is part of it, but so is changing behaviour amongst the few who fail to clean up after their dog. So, on 
this one, full marks to the council and full steam ahead for broader community action on the scourge of dog fouling.

Derek Roberton is chief executive of environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful