GRASPING the dog-fouling nettle, as the village of Twyford, Berkshire, has discovered, can cause deep divisions. On one side parents, sports players and walkers indignantly demand clean parks and streets; on the other, dog owners, especially those who clean up after their pets, feel alienated and victimised.

Twyford Parish Council finally opted for a total dog ban in one of their main parks after years of ineffectual attempts to control dog mess - including poop bins and banishing dogs to the park perimeter. The King George V Playing Fields ban will come into effect next Friday; enforcement and fines are still being debated.

The pro-ban campaigners are jubilant. 'We marched through the town, 30 of us with our buggies, and flags saying 'We want to play but dog mess is in the way',' says Samantha Botting, mother of two toddlers. 'We just wanted one area where we could let our children run around.'

However, dog-owners who religiously scoop the poop are hurt and angry at the ban. Kathleen Poppy has walked her dogs in the park for 25 years. She is defiant and determined to carry on. However, she is passionately anti-fouling, and always goes armed with a copious supply of plastic bags.

'I feel very sorry for dogs owned by the dirty, filthy antisocial people who don't clean up after them, but we shouldn't all be tarred with the same dirty brush. When I stand up for dogs I'm labelled odd, mad, eccentric, an old fuddy-duddy who doesn't like children. It's so unfair.'

She is upset by all the controversy. 'Fouling should be a criminal offence. It is totally unacceptable. I can't understand why we're fighting. We want the same thing.'

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