Councils Wasting Even More Money on Pointless Dog Related Orders as Public Space Protection Orders, or PSPOs. Education is the way forward surely.
The front page of The Times on 6th September contained an article about Canterbury Council planning to introduce PSPO’s that effectively mandated that dog owners must carry at least 2 poo bags. The same day Merton Council issued a consultation document relating to PSPO’s that they plan to introduce that limits the numbers of dogs that walkers can walk to a maximum of four and also incorporates existing penalties for those dog owners who choose not to pick up after their dog. In addition to the usual restrictions surrounding where dogs may or may not go ( as below).
Lets firstly examine what PSPO’s actually are and represent. Public Space Protection Orders, or PSPOs, came into existence in 2014 under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Similar to the much-derided anti-social behaviour orders (asbos), PSPOs allow for broad powers to criminalise behaviour that is not normally criminal. But where asbos were directed at individuals, PSPOs are geographically defined, making predefined activities within a mapped area prosecutable.
As an example lets take a look at Dover Council. They introduced a PSPO in 2015.
Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) specify an area where activities are taking place that are or may likely be detrimental to the local community’s quality of life. PSPOs impose conditions or restrictions on people using that area.
As of the 27 July 2015 a PSPO in relation to dog control has taken effect across the Dover district and replaced a number of out of date by-laws to create a more comprehensive and consistent approach when dealing with issues such as dog fouling, keeping dogs on leads and excluding dogs from specified areas.
In summary this order:
- Excludes dogs from:
- enclosed children’s play areas
- specific beaches at certain times of year
- specific sporting or recreational facilities
- Requires dogs to be kept on leads:
- within specific churchyards and cemeteries
- specific seafront promenades and seafront gardens
- specific memorial sites and nature reserves
- Requires dog owners to remove dog faeces
- This applies to any land to which is open to air and to which the public have access
- Requires dog owners to put their dog on a lead when directed to do so by an authorised officer
- This will apply to any public land where a dog is considered to be out of control or causing alarm and distress
The PSPO will be in place for a period of three years from the commencement date.
This all sounds on the face of it fine and reasonable. However what is immediately obvious is that none of this can effectively be policed for three reasons:
- Dog walkers walk their dogs everywhere and not in the same place at prescribed times, meaning that councils will need hundreds if not thousands of wardens ( or whoever will monitor all this) to make this work. Clearly this will not happen and can never be cost effective. Canterbury council have only ever issued 1 notice for dog fouling in the last 4 years. Their website allows online reporting, though again how this might work and what level of proof is needed is not clear.You can report dog fouling online, especially if you are aware of a regular offender at the same time and place.
- Dog walkers can claim , if they choose not to carry bags, that they have already used them. So wardens will need to turn into Sherlock Holmes to rifle through bins and other poo repositories to find the alleged bags. Presumably then DNA each specimen to determine the dog. This is clearly ridiculous
- Dog walkers might argue, reasonably that there is a large difference between four German shepherds and four miniature poodles.
Councils would do better to provide increasing amounts of bins ( although to be fair, these exist already in Merton). But mostly education is needed for those who choose not to pick up.
As a dog owner I can only surmise it is mostly pure laziness that stops some owners picking up, and sometimes they may simply not see their dog produce its excrement. Education is the way forward. I somehow suspect that none of these councils despite their evangelical outpourings , consulted widely and specifically with dog owners ( and by this I mean normal everyday owners and not Dogs Trust or RSPCA etc). Some folks need education that looking after a dog is a bit more complex than just walking them. Some non-dog owners might need to understand that they should not approach dogs and start stroking them without at least asking the owner, who will be well aware of the dogs nature.