Law guide: Complaints and disputes

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Dog fouling

Dog fouling

Dog fouling is a major issue in many different areas of the UK. Apart from the fact that dog fouling is a nuisance, it's associated with various diseases including 'toxocara canis'. Dog owners should clean up after their dog in public places - you can report dog fouling that isn't cleaned up, to your local council.

The Litter (Animal Droppings) Order 1991 made under the Environmental Protection Act (1990) places a duty on local authorities to keep the following areas clear of dog faeces:

  • Any public walk or pleasure ground
  • Any land laid out as a garden or used for the purpose of recreation
  • Any part of the seashore which is frequently used by large numbers of people, and managed by the person having direct control of it as a tourist resort or recreational facility
  • Any esplanade or promenade
  • Any land not forming part of the highway or, in Scotland, a public road, which is open to the air, which the public are permitted to use on foot only, and which provides access to retail premises
  • A trunk road picnic area
  • A picnic site

Prosecution of dog owners who fail to clear up

In England and Wales

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 came into force on 20 October 2014. This Act allows authorities to designate public spaces where certain activities are prohibited. Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) can be made to prevent persistent or continuing activities that have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the area, such as dog fouling. This Act repealed the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 under which Dog control orders used to be made by local authorities. Dog Control Orders made dog fouling, and failure of owners to clean up after their dogs, offences. However any Dog Control Orders made before the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act came into force continue in effect. If they are still in force 3 years after the passing of the 2014 Act, they will continue in effect as if they are Public Spaces Protection Orders.

The old Dog Control Orders applied to publicly accessible land open to the air; however, the following areas are not included:

  • Carriageways with a speed limit of more than 40 mph
  • Land used for agriculture or woodlands
  • Land which is predominantly marshland, moor or heath
  • Rural common land

Dog fouling can be reported to the local council. The penalty for not clearing up dog fouling can be up to £1,000 if taken to court, but there is also provision for a fixed penalty scheme with a fine of £50 in England.

Exceptions to the offence are:

  • The person in charge of the dog has a reasonable excuse for not clearing up. (Being unaware of the fouling or not having the means to clean up is not an excuse.)
  • The owner or occupier of the land has consented to the faeces being left
  • The person puts the faeces in a bin on the land
  • The person in charge of the dog has a registered visual impairment

Under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, owners who regularly allow their dogs to foul in public places would be committing anti-social behaviour. The range of remedies under the act such as injunctions, community protection notices and orders and fixed penalty notices could be used against them. See Solutions (England & Wales) and Solutions (Scotland & Northern Ireland).

Fouling in Northern Ireland

Under the Litter (Northern Ireland) Order 1994, local authorities have the duty to keep land or any road it is responsible for, clear of litter and refuse (including dog faeces). In addition, it is an offence for the owner of a dog not to clear up after their dog if it has left faeces on publicly accessible land. The penalty is up to £500. The fixed penalty rate is £50.

Fouling in Scotland

The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 section 48 makes it an offence to allow a dog to foul a footpath, local authority grass verge, a local authority pedestrian precinct or any local authority maintained recreation or sports ground. The fine is up to £500.

Dog control orders in Scotland

In Scotland, most of the legislation is found in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Under this Act, the owner of a dangerous dog can be fined and/or imprisoned. The local authority can also create local laws to make owners keep dogs on leads in particular areas, or to ban dogs from places like children's playgrounds.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 does not apply in Scotland. There are no 'Dog Control Orders' of this type in Scotland.

Dog control orders in Northern Ireland

The control of dogs is governed by the Dogs Order (Northern Ireland) 1983 (as amended by the Dangerous Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1991). Where the Local Council Dog Warden or Enforcement Officer observes a dog fouling in a public place, the owner, if identified, is liable to a fixed penalty charge of £50. Legal proceedings may also be instigated, depending upon circumstances.

District councils can, under the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972, make bye-laws requiring dogs to be under control in certain areas, for instance, requiring dogs to be leashed in parks, and also provide for penalties for fouling outside designated areas in parks. There are also provisions under the Dogs Order for dogs to be kept under control.

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