West Lothian sees surge in number of dog fouling complaints since start of lockdown
In a year filled with tales of abandoned lockdown puppies or “fur babies”, and dognappers at every gate, there is one messy truth: there’s been a surge in dog fouling complaints.
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Across West Lothian the council has seen numbers climb from 206 in April to June in the first months of the 2020 lockdown to almost 300 in the same time this year.
Complaints to street cleaning services centred on fouled roads and pathways. Close behind were open spaces and children’s play parks.
A total of 263 complaints were made between April and June this year. Figures for January to March - the fourth quarters in 2020 and 2021 - also showed big jumps.
Across the nine council wards 181 complaints were logged this year compared with 109 for the same period in 2020.
As with last year, the number of complaints outstrips the numbers of fixed penalty notices issued. But the council has reiterated that fines will be imposed if dog owners are identified.
As highlighted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service earlier this year, social media tales of widespread dognapping across the county were not backed up by actual police reports, where only two cases had been identified.
And a dog rehoming charity said there had not been a noticeable rise in the intake of abandoned dogs. Although that could change.
The dog fouling complaints come snapping at the heels of major changes wrought by the pandemic: widespread working from home, huge numbers of people forced home through furlough and a big increase in outdoor activities.
Council rangers have faced big clear-ups after increased, and illegal, use of beauty spots trashed by wild campers. They have also reported a growing intolerance and clashes between walkers and others using areas such as Beecraigs.
A West Lothian Council spokesperson said: “ When you look at the number of reports relating to dog waste across the county during the first quarter of 2021 then you can see a marked increase compared to the same period in 2020.
“While it is difficult to attribute this increase to one factor over another with absolute certainty, it is clear that previous communications have resulted in greater awareness of how to report dog fouling issues within our communities.
“It is important to stress that anyone who does not clean up after their dog is not only breaking the law or being irresponsible but also leaving themselves open to receiving a fixed penalty notice.”
“Multipurpose bins are available across West Lothian where customers can deposit dog fouling in a responsible manner. If you do come across any incidents of dog fouling when you are out in your local area then please report this via the West Lothian Council website.”
A spokesman for DogsTrust, which has a centre near West Calder, said: “At the moment we haven’t been experiencing a massive influx in the number of dogs coming into our care as a result of the pandemic.
"We are anticipating this will change as lockdown continues to ease (furlough ends and dog owners return to the workplace) but we might not have any update for a couple of months on this front, until we are certain there is a notable trend that more dogs are consistently in need of our support.”