Many dog-owners are deeply concerned about the problems of fouling in public places, and are determined to be part of the solution. 'Responsible owners are the best first line of attack,' wrote a dog-owning Lowestoft reader when we began the Dirty Dogs Campaign.
A north London group of owners has become just that. Bardo - the Barnet Association of Responsible Dog Owners - formed two years ago, when the borough of Barnet proposed to make 21 of its parks 'Dogs on Leads' zones, in an attempt to control fouling.
Wilma Mitchell, whose local park was under threat, decided to fight back. Miss Mitchell owns three rescued mongrels which need a lot of exercising. She helped found Bardo to show the council that where responsible dog owners clear up behind their pets, a 'dogs-on-leads' by-law is unnecessary. Before long the association had 350 members, including local councillors and vets.
Members try to educate less enlightened dog owners with posters and leaflets. Miss Mitchell says she accosts owners whenever she sees them not clearing up behind their dogs. 'Usually people throw their hands up in horror and say how dreadfully sorry they are, that they did not know about the rules. There is, of course, the odd elderly man who mutters that he has been walking his dog for years and why should he change now, but the majority of people are terribly polite.'
Bardo won its argument: Victoria Park and one other have been exempted from the ban and, having demonstrated that attitudes to clearing-up can change, owners can continue to let their dogs exercise freely. But Miss Mitchell remains vigilant. 'Irresponsible dog owners give dogs a bad name. It is not the dogs which are dirty, but the dog owners. All you need is a plastic bag.'
If local authorities are really determined to control dog-fouling, it can be done. Nuneaton and Bedworth council won an international award for its Good Dog Campaign.
It started three years ago this week, after dog mess was identified as one of the major sources of grief amongst residents. The campaign contains a strong educational element and schools are invited to take part in knowledge tests on aspects of pet ownership. Posters and leaflets encouraging responsible dog ownership were distributed, and local animal welfare groups and dog training clubs gave support.
The first six months of the campaign produced two tonnes of dog mess in the newly installed poop-scoop bins, and Nuneaton was visited by a team of French town planners to see whether the scheme could be repeated over the Channel.
Nuneaton and Bedworth has spent pounds 3,500 on its campaign. In 1992 it was presented with an international Pets in Cities Award, beating contenders from 11 other countries and winning pounds 1,200 to be ploughed back into the good work.
LOCAL ACTION: More information on how to fight dog-fouling problems locally is included in our free Dirty Dogs Campaign fact pack. If you would like to receive a copy, please write your name and address on a postcard - marked DDC FACT PACK - and send to: Dirty Dogs Campaign, the Independent on Sunday, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. (We will be sending the pack automatically, as soon as possible, to readers who have already written to us.)
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