Canine toilets considered in bid to tackle dog foulers

CANINE toilets, fenced-off dog runs and a CCTV crackdown on owners who let their pets foul the streets are among a series of measures being considered by city leaders to clean up the Capital's streets.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 18th January 2016, 8:50 am
Updated Monday, 18th January 2016, 8:56 am
Gerry Farrell with Karolina Dobrzynska and her dog, Tila, in Cables Wynd Park, Leith. 
Picture: Ian Rutherford
Gerry Farrell with Karolina Dobrzynska and her dog, Tila, in Cables Wynd Park, Leith. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The ideas are being examined after community campaigners drew applause from councillors when they presented a ten-point action plan to tackle littering and dog fouling.

The proposals follow a public survey carried out by the Leithers Don’t Litter campaign which also found strong support for the naming and shaming of people who continue to ignore the clean streets message. The campaign group – founded by advertising guru Gerry Farrell and his wife, Zsuzsa – has won the support of hundreds of residents and seen volunteers collecting litter and working in schools to promote respect for the environment.

They are calling on the city to adopt a number of successful initiatives from across Europe and for tougher enforcement action.

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A dog toilet in Budapest. Picture: supplied

The call comes after it emerged there were only two prosecutions for dog fouling in Leith last year despite soaring complaints.

The city’s environment leader, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said she was determined to take action and had been very impressed by the “inspiring” work of the Leithers Don’t Litter campaign.

A dog toilet in Budapest. Picture: supplied

“I am keen to continue to work with Gerry and Zsuzsa to see how the council can support them,” she said.

“I invited them both along to give what I think was a very positive presentation. I wanted other councillors and officers to see the results of all their great work and our support of initiatives like this. I have asked the officers to consider the proposals and how we can work together to help bring about a cleaner Leith.”

The Leithers Don’t Litter survey, which gathered more than 200 responses, found strong support for more environmental wardens and more prosecutions as well as the naming and shaming of persistent offenders, an idea for which Cllr Hinds and the Evening News have both expressed support.

It is hoped that some of the proposals can be trialled in Leith and other parts of the city, with those that prove successful being rolled out across the Capital.

Although council officials have not ruled out using microchip scanners to identify dogs which foul public spaces, they said their usefulness was limited when pets are found without the owner as the person supervising at the time has to be identified in order to issue a fine.

However, councillors have asked for other ideas to be examined, including banning plastic water bottles – considered a major source of litter – from city-owned parks and other council property.

Low-lying shrubs, where rubbish tends to collect, could also be removed.

Evening News columnist Mr Farrell, the man behind Irn-Bru’s famous “phenomenal” ads, said it was “difficult but not impossible” to catch dog owners in the act.

He said: “There aren’t enough prosecutions. There are a bunch of persistent dog foulers in Leith who know they can get away with it because nobody is really trying to catch them.

“There are not enough environmental wardens and there aren’t enough prosecutions. People in Leith want dog foulers to face the consequences of their 
antisocial behaviour but this isn’t happening.”

Some of the pilot projects proposed, including dog toilets and dog-free zones in play parks, have already met with some success in other European cities.

Mrs Farrell said: “In the 13th district of Budapest, dog mess used to be a huge problem, but the council set up dog toilets with clearly marked dog waste bins and that has transformed the whole neighbourhood.”

Meanwhile, the suggested use of increased camera surveillance and warning signs across Edinburgh follows a successful scheme in Northern Ireland.

Banbridge District Council erected signs warning dog owners that CCTV cameras may be used to identify persistent offenders who do not clean up.

Since the scheme was introduced, the council has reported “a marked reduction” in the number of complaints about dog fouling.

The couple argue that five things are needed to make a real difference – information, education, experimentation, legislation and enforcement.

Mrs Farrell added: “None of these on their own are enough, we need all five. We have to make littering and dog fouling socially unacceptable. Racist chanting at football games used to be socially acceptable. And smoking in pubs. Not any more.”

The couple launched Leithers Don’t Litter in response to a rising tide of rubbish in their area, also adopting one of their local play parks. Since then they have organised litter picks and visits to local schools, created a Facebook page with more than 1000 followers, and launched a newsletter.

Leithers Don’t Litter has already received a Waste Action grant allowing them to produce stickers reminding people to dispose of their rubbish in bins.

The survey carried out by Leither Don’t Litter asked residents the whereabouts of the main problem areas and how best they thought the problem should be tackled.

Nine out of ten respondents thought the dog fouling problem was worse in Leith than anywhere else in the city.

Most people who completed the survey agreed that the main reason for dog fouling was “other people’s ignorance” followed by a shortage of wardens and prosecutions.

The fine for dog owners who fail to pick up after their pets has been doubled from £40 to £80 as part of a crackdown by the Scottish Government.

The new fixed penalty charges for the offence will come into force on April 1, with the level of the fine being brought into line with that for people caught littering.

However, campaigners believe this is “pointless” without the CCTV, wardens and IDs needed to secure a prosecution.

10-point plan

The ten-point plan to tackle littering and dog-fouling includes;

• A pilot scheme to install a dog toilet in a Leith park to see if it creates a change in behaviour;

• Creating separate dog runs in Leith parks so there’s no danger to small children from dog mess;

• Scanners for dog wardens so they can identify dog foulers when microchipping becomes compulsory in April;

• More CCTV cameras in Leith and signs warning dog owners and litter droppers that they are being filmed;

• Encouraging Leith takeaway businesses to join Leithers Don’t Litter and display the messages in their premises;

• Encouraging them to use biodegradable food trays instead of the usual polystyrene and plastic;

• Cleaning up the eyesore of junk in the Water of Leith at the Shore;

• Offering free litter-pickers and gloves to anybody who volunteers to “adopt” their street and keep it litter-free;

• Clarifying how many different recycling bins should be provided for tenants in tenement flats;

• Producing stickers for litter bins to remind people they can dispose of dog waste in those bins.