ONE YEAR after the Dirty Dogs Campaign began, our cause has come before Parliament. A Private Member's Bill concerning dog fouling was presented in the Commons last Friday, sponsored by Harold Elletson, MP for Blackpool North.

Key points of the Bill include allowing local authorities to designate their own poop-scoop areas (scrapping cumbersome bureaucracy that required them to wait for the Department of the Environment to process their applications); fixed penalty fines of £10 for owners who fail to clean up in such designated areas, and raising the maximum fine for dog fouling from £500 to £1,000.

Mr Elletson's constituency members have hurried to support his Bill; he has been designated "Hero of the Week" in his local paper. "There has been great interest, especially as a little local girl was blinded by Toxocara. I have had a lot of mail on the subject. The Bill will help local authorities by making their job easier, help the Department of the Environment by getting rid of unnecessary bureaucracy, and help people whose lives are beset by dog fouling."

The Tidy Britain Group is an enthusiastic supporter of Mr Elletson's Bill. "Anything that will help local authorities keep their land clean and encourage the public to be responsible for their dogs is very welcome," said the group's director general, Professor David Ashworth.

Local authorities also welcome the new measures. Peter Jones, Group Manager of Environmental Services for Southwark Council, said: "We're very keen to bring home the message of responsible dog ownership. Anything to lift the burden of bureaucracy from local authorities would be very welcome." Southwark Council already takes dog fouling seriously; it has pioneered a Dog Mess Hotline, with clean-up squads which aim to respond within the hour.

The Bill still has to be considered at Committee stage, but Mr Elletson, owner of Phoebe the labrador and Samba the spaniel, is optimistic. "I hope it will have cross-party support, as it will be widely welcomed by so many people. I think there is a reasonable chance it could be on the statute book by the summer recess, if all goes well, and be law by the autumn."

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