Free dog poo bags are being axed by a council because mums have been using them as nappy sacks.
East Lothian Council is currently one of 16 local authorities in Scotland providing free dog waste bags to encourage pooch owners to pick up after their pets.
When looking at income generation ideas, charging for dog waste bags was a top priority”Tom Shearer
The bags are distributed through libraries and branch offices – however they will now cost £1 for a bag of 50 after councillors voted through the charge.
The council’s head of communities and partnerships Tom Shearer said staff were fed up with dishing out free bags.
He said in a report to the council: “During the service review, ‘Face to Face Services’ in 2013, workshops were held for staff.
“When looking at income generation ideas, charging for dog waste bags was a top priority for staff.
“This was due to the fact that the provision of dog waste bags could not keep up with demand and that a number of customers identified they were using the bags for other purposes, most notably for the disposal of nappies.
“Introducing a charge for dog waste bags was a recommendation from this Service Review.”
Eileen Morrison, head of customer services at the council, told councillors that a survey of the East Lothian Citizens Panel last year had found two-thirds of people wanted a nominal fee to be charged for the bags.
She argued responsible dog owners should be prepared to pay.
She said: “Dog ownership is expensive and a choice people make. Owning a dog is not something people should enter lightly and a charge of £1 for 50 bags should be a factor in the costs.”
Council officials said they believed charging £1 per pack could bring in revenue of £13,000 a year, which could, after the costs were taken into account, be invested in initiatives to promote responsible dog ownership.
Councillor Stuart Currie, leader of the SNP opposition on the council, said his party could not support charging for the bags, which he said would make dog fouling worse.
He said: “I believe it will have a negative impact and we cannot support the charge.
“We have a £220 million budget. If I thought the problems the council face could be changed by £13,000 I’d be cheering it on.”
Councillor Norman Hampshire said the majority of dog owners already bought waste bags rather than using the free ones from the council and the charge would make no difference to them. On the issue of dog fouling, he said: “We need more enforcement, we need to pursue these people so everyone becomes a responsible dog owner.”
The council has been supplying free dog waste bags since 1993 and issued 1.8 million free bags last year.
Only four other councils in Scotland charge for the bags.