"We want society to be pro-dog and to discourage anything that's anti-dog," explained Robin Jackson, marketing executive for James Wellbeloved. "Persuading dog owners to clear up after their dogs by putting an exhortation on every pack of food seemed an ideal way of doing it. I think it would be a very good idea for other companies to adopt the label."
James Wellbeloved has already helped to address the dog fouling problem by producing an especially digestible food which contributes to greater poopscoopability of dog mess. Their current initiative has been greeted enthusiastically by pet shops and dog owners alike, as well as the Department of the Environment.
"At first we were concerned that it might annoy people," admits Robin Jackson. "But I have great trust in dog owners; once you explain the problem to them I think they will co-operate." Initially, Jackson's PR company advised him against the campaign andthe labelling, because they felt it was too risky an area for a small company to become involved with; but it seems smaller manufacturers are obliged to show the way, as the major companies refuse to take the lead.
Sir Paul Beresford, Secretary of State for the Environment, was delighted to hear about the James Wellbeloved labelling initiative. "It's a very good idea, I'm very pleased," he said. "With one responsible pet food manufacturer going down the right line,do you think between us we could encourage other pet manufacturers to do the same?"
Sadly, it seems not. The two largest dog food producers, Petigree and Spillers, remain resolutely negative. "Food is not the problem," argues Michael Jenkins, Pedigree's external relations manager. "Putting a message on a food can is fairly scattergun and there is inadequate space on the label. We do not feel that putting a message on the labels would add anything to the exhaustive list of things we already do."
Spillers was equally adamant, claiming the results of a psychologist's recent report showed that in the rare instance of a label being read, the owner would presume the message was directed at someone else.
These views are not shared by the Tidy Britain Group, another campaigning body determined to find a solution to the dog-fouling problem. Welcoming James Wellbeloved's introduction of a clean-up message, spokeswoman Aileen McWey highlighted the importanceof peer-group pressure. "Once people start taking this kind of action it becomes the norm rather than the exception."
The importance of spreading the word about responsible dog ownership was illustrated recently in an episode of the BBC's Steve Wright People's Show. Hidden cameras filmed people allowing their dogs to foul the grass in London's Richmond Park. When challenged, some owners claimed they were unaware of the need to clean up their dog's mess.
Thanks to all readers who wrote to the Department of the Environment to press for national legislation on dog fouling when the DoE published its consultation document from the advisory group on litter. The department were impressed by the public response.
"We received 900 responses to the consultation document, 700 from members of the public, of whom a substantial number were readers of the Independent on Sunday," said a spokesman.
SPECIAL OFFER The first 500 readers to contact James Wellbeloved can get £5 discount on an 18kg sack of Lamb & Rice Kibble. Offer price of the Adult Maintenance and Senior varieties is £25.99 (usually £30.99); Puppy variety is £26.99 (£31.99); including next-day deliv ery to UK mainland addresses. Phone 01935 825599 with Visa or Access details, mentioning the Independent on Sunday; or send name, full address and cheque to James Wellbeloved Independent Offer, Halfway House Kennels, Tintinhull, Yeovil BA22 8PA (specify variety).