what is the point of dog fouling fines when they are rarely dished out and even more rarely paid? It is a question worth asking if we are serious about getting tough on what remains a serious problem in many streets, parks and other open spaces in the Capital.
Today we have learned fines are being enforced on less than one irresponsible dog owner a week – a mindboggling result when you consider how much dirt you see on any walk through the city.
The number of fines being handed out is pretty tiny. It is isn’t the easiest job in the world to catch irresponsible owners in the act – something that is necessary for handing out fines – but it is hardly the most difficult either. The number issued has tumbled recently after the number of environmental wardens employed by the city council was cut to save money.
On top of that, the council appears to be pretty powerless when it comes to forcing those who are caught to pay up.
It is easy to see why the problem is not getting tackled. It is harder to find the solutions, especially in these days of council cost-cutting.
But there are local authorities taking an innovative approach and reaping the benefits. Glasgow has hired far more enivornmental wardens, including undercover ones, and encouraged them to act with the same zeal as Edinburgh’s parking enforcers. As a result, they collect far more fines that pay their wages.
In Dundee, full-time dog dirt wardens are being trialled, who don’t have to spend their on all the other tasks demanded of environmental wardens. They are also looking at adding unpaid fines on to council tax bills to make it easier to chase them up and taken refuseniks to court. There are plenty of examples of smart thinking that could be explored in the Capital.
One local authority in England is even taking the drastic step of introducing a bye-law that makes it an offence to walk your dog without taking a poop bag.
Given that the dog fouling problem is largely down to a relatively small minority of owners, then surely there is a place for fines. How else do you get them to change their ways?
But to be effective the fines don’t just need to be hefty, people need to fear they will get caught – and forced to pay. It is easy to see where the system in Edinburgh is falling down.