Laughing Lords talk out dirty dogs Bill

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The Independent Online
A BILL intended to crack down on dog-fouling in public places has been defeated in the House of Lords, allegedly by peers concerned it would be exploited by anti-hunt activists.

The Dogs (Fouling of Land) Bill aimed to force more dog-owners to clear up their pets' excrement in response to growing public anger over nuisance and health risks. As a campaign by this newspaper last year showed, there is particular concern among parents of young children at the spread of the toxocara larva, which is found in dog faeces and causes blindness.

But last week, amid laughter and ribaldry in the upper chamber, the Bill hit a barrage of amendments and was left with no Parliamentary time to proceed.

"This is the kind of thing that gives the House of Lords a bad name," said Harold Elletson, the MP for Blackpool North who tabled the private member's Bill. "A small group of peers are paranoid about any piece of legislation that could be used by Labour to eventually ban hunting. But we had already received a ministerial assurance saying that working and sporting dogs would be exempt. Through their selfishness [the peers] have stopped legislation that would have made a great difference to many ordinary people - in my own constituency a little girl was recently blinded by the toxocara larva."

The Bill called for local councils to be allowed to designate compulsory "poop scoop" areas and fine fouling offenders.

The debate went into minute detail. The Bill's proposal to outlaw dog mess in gutters and ditches prompted the Earl of Northesk to ask: "Would an offence be committed if a dog's stools straddled the gutter and the kerb?"

Lord Simon of Glaisdale was concerned with the practicalities of picking up. "Does the dog owner have to provide every member of his family who might walk the dog with rubber gloves?"

Lord Lucas responded: "I can only offer the noble and learned Lord the advice to do what I do. I carry a plastic bag in my pocket. All that he needs to do is to be careful that it is not one of the plastic bags which supermarkets provide for packing vegetables in, because they have small holes in the bottom."

Lord Mancroft, present during the debate, said the Lords had only done their job. "It was a very well-meaning Bill, but too narrowly drafted," he said.

Leading article, page 20

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