OUR Dirty Dogs Campaign was launched a month ago after an unprecendented response from readers. A small plea by Justine Picardie in the Sunday Review about dog mess in her local park triggered a huge postbag of passionate letters. The heartfelt message was the same everywhere: all over Britain, our streets and public spaces are spoiled by dog-fouling, and a real, practical solution needs to be found.

THE FACTS OF FOULING

Britain had 5.5 million dogs in 1981. There are now 7.5 million, producing 1,000 tonnes of dirt every day.

There is no national legislation - only by-laws - to compel owners to clean up after their dogs.

The maximum fine is pounds 500 (the maximum for litter is pounds 2,500).

There is no dog licence or dog registration scheme (the old licence, costing just 37p, was scrapped in 1988).

Dog faeces can be a health hazard, especially to children. Up to eight children a month develop eye disease as a result of Toxocara infection.

We launched the Dirty Dogs Campaign to get a national picture of the problem and to look for an answer that would really work. We have since received hundreds of letters from all over the country, from large cities to seaside towns and rural areas.

Letters of support have outnumbered those against by more than 10 to one, and include support from the National Canine Defence League and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

More than half of our correspondents want to see compulsory dog registration: realistic fees, readers say, could pay for many more dog wardens and better dog hygiene schemes. Readers also want more effective, national laws to make irresponsible owners clear up after their dogs. And they feel that raising public awareness of the problem is vital.

With our readers' support we are campaigning for changes in the law, and for better publicity about the problem. We have approached dog food manufacturers for their help, as Hester Lacey reports below.

MPs SUPPORT OUR CAMPAIGN

Chris Mullin MP has tabled an Early Day Motion supporting the Independent on Sunday's Dirty Dogs Campaign. It calls on the Government to 'compel dog owners to take responsibility for the misdeeds of their pets and thereby restore to all citizens the right to enjoyment of our parks, beaches and other public places.' An amendment to it also called for registration. So far 52 MPs, from all parties, have backed it.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Write to your MP: Explain your views, and ask him or her to sign the Chris Mullin Early Day Motion.

Write to us: Please send your local reports and suggestions - especially to help us lobby dog food manufacturers - to the Dirty Dogs Campaign, the Independent on Sunday, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

For more information: If you would like to receive a free Dirty Dogs Campaign information pack, write your name and address on a postcard and send to the above address, marked DDC FACT PACK. (We will send the pack automatically to readers who have already written to us.)

FINALLY: We would like to make clear that our campaign is against the problem of dog-fouling, not against dogs. We believe that the vast majority of readers will appreciate the difference.

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