Dog Fouling

– in Westminster Hall at 4:29 pm on 14th March 2017.

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Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans 4:29 pm, 14th March 2017

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered dog fouling.

The aim of this debate is to raise awareness of the ongoing problem of dog fouling, specifically in woodland and rural areas. I am a dog owner and a dog lover, and I must declare an interest: I sponsor a dog through Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, which runs initiatives throughout the country to encourage more responsibility among dog owners. Such efforts to encourage responsible dog ownership are welcome, but we need to do so much more. This debate is not about dogs or demonising dog owners; it is about the actions of irresponsible or ignorant dog owners and the environmental blight caused by dog poo that is dealt with inappropriately.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs discontinued the collection of figures on the number of fixed penalty notices issued for dog fouling in 2010, as it was viewed as an unnecessary burden on local authorities. I agree—it would be enormously burdensome to keep collecting those data. The most recent figures show that 2,082 fixed penalty notices were issued in 2009. I gave the Minister some pictures before the debate to illustrate the extent of the bagged dog fouling problem. I suggest that those figures do not show the true extent of the problem.

Experience and anecdotal accounts from across the country show that this really is a big problem. It affects tourism, local authorities, private landowners, forestry commissions and farmers, as well as the public at large. I will refer later to the challenges that farmers face as a result of fouling on their farmland, as they have particular concerns about livestock safety, but the two key strands to my argument are the burgeoning nationwide problem of the inappropriate disposal of dog poo bags and how we can encourage the correct disposal of dog poo.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. Solutions need to be appropriate to the surroundings, well publicised and simple to execute. There is no doubt that dog fouling is an antisocial and environmentally damaging problem. It blights parks, forests and farmland as well as fields and verges. To compound the problem, we have seen the rise of the phenomenon of the ghastly dog poo bauble. Walkers, cyclists and families out with small children are greeted by lumps of dog faeces wrapped in pink, blue, black and even apricot-coloured plastic dangling from trees or bushes, or decoratively tied to people’s fences. Deer ingest the bags, children may handle the packages and cyclists have even ridden headlong into bags dangling from low-hanging branches. It is disgusting. Some dog walkers use sandwich bags, freezer bags or even supermarket carrier bags to scoop up the poo before lobbing it off into the environment, where it festers, causing blight for years.

I accept that many bags are biodegradable, but even if they are marketed as such, they still hang around for a very long time. According to the BBC’s Focus magazine, it can take six months or longer for even degradable dog poo bags to decompose. Although that is a marked improvement on the 500 years that scientists think it takes for a normal supermarket plastic bag to decompose, they are still a prolonged blight on the countryside landscape.

Initially, I thought that this foul practice of lobbing poo in bags into hedges and trees might be limited to a few irresponsible owners, but a quick trawl of social media and news archives shows that the problem is rampant and growing across Britain. It is estimated that local authorities receive upwards of 70,000 complaints a year about dog fouling, which is no small number. Local newspapers are filled with reports of the problems that it can cause, and Twitter is alive with concerns raised by people about the impact that dog fouling, particularly bagged dog fouling, has on their area.

Is it just me, Mr Hollobone? I do not understand the mentality of the person who enjoys walking on a beautiful woodland trail and goes to the trouble of purchasing and carrying a dog poo bag, picking up the often smelly deposit and even carrying it for a short distance, but then takes the opportunity to lob the carefully wrapped package up into the trees. I just do not understand it, but believe me, a quick look on the internet shows that that happens thousands of times every day.

Dog walking is one of life’s pleasures. Long rambles in the fresh air are good for dogs and their owners. Dogs Trust and many other groups strongly oppose blanket bans on dog walking in parks, beaches or countryside areas. I agree with them that that would be a great loss to communities of people who meet in those areas with their dogs and would directly punish the vast majority of dogs and their law-abiding owners just because of a select few offenders.

There are approximately 9 million pet dogs in the UK. One in four households in the UK has a pet dog, and they produce 1,000 tonnes of poo a day, or 365,000 tonnes a year. That is the weight of the Empire State building in New York or, to bring the problem closer to home, 5.6 times the weight of St Paul’s cathedral in dog excrement every year. We have a huge, smelly problem, and dog poo baubles are a relatively new and disgusting phenomenon. Online posts from Slough, Dartmoor, Rhondda, Glasgow and Kent, to name but a few places, show that this is a countrywide issue that we really need to tackle.

Keep Britain Tidy’s 2014-15 local environmental quality survey of England addressed both dog fouling and bagged dog fouling. Statistics that it gathered prove that dog walkers are far more likely to collect and dispose of dog poo when it is light and they feel they are being watched. In the light of that, Keep Britain Tidy started a “We’re watching you” campaign, which featured a pair of eyes that glowed in the dark and was designed to reinforce the message: “If you let your dog foul in an urban or rural area, someone may be watching you.” Often, of course, they are not. That campaign, which was trialled in 17 local authorities in 2014, led to a 46% reduction in recorded fouling and bagged fouling, but too often, the dog poo bauble is lobbed into the trees, away from sight.

It is argued that people should simply “bag it and bin it”. Would that it were that simple. Human nature often leads people to take an easy way out. Carrying a bag of poo for several hours on a family walk is often seen as an unattractive prospect, so, having been picked up, the poo gets lobbed into the bushes. We need to ensure that there are dog poo bins in appropriate locations, but that is only part of the solution.

The strategic placement of bins in rural parks and countryside dog walking hotspots is a key aid to prevent people from incorrectly disposing of dog poo bags. The National Trust is trying to address this issue on its sites by placing dog poo bins in the immediate area of car parks. Its studies show that, on leaving a vehicle, the vast majority of dogs relieve themselves within 50 metres of the vehicle. Having maps in car parks for country walk areas showing the placement of bins would also encourage more people to bag and bin poo, as they may know that the next bin is only a short distance away.

But that scheme cannot tackle the problem of bagged dog fouling in less populated woodland and countryside environments—open wild spaces where locating a bin would be impractical or even detrimental to the natural landscape. Lawrence Trowbridger, lead ranger at the National Trust’s Ashridge estate, said in an interview in 2015 that the solution was not just about introducing more bins but about

“challenging the mindset of the dog walker”.

I completely agree, so how do we change that mindset? How do we educate the public and steer them into good countryside practice?

I have a few suggestions, which I hope the Minister will look at. I believe that we need much better signage in areas such as country parks and forests to show where bins are located, so that people know how far they are from bins and whether bins are available past a certain point. Dog poo counts as waste refuse—not everyone is aware of that—so all waste bins, wherever they are located, should carry a logo showing that it is appropriate to put bagged dog poo in them.

For dog walkers further on in their walk and in a “no bin” area—an area of natural habitat—the sign at the entrance to the walk should show them that they ought to use the “stick and flick” approach, which the Forestry Commission advocates on its website, or cover the poo with leaves or vegetation. Having tried to stick and flick a pseudo-poo—it happened to be chocolate éclair, which did not flick at all well—on the Jeremy Vine show, I can say that that is actually quite an effective way of doing things. We need clear, easy-to-recognise graphics in parks, woodland areas and laybys close to footpaths to suggest those methods of disposal.

Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Labour, Poplar and Limehouse

I recognise that there is a problem here. Organisations from the National Farmers Union to Keep Britain Tidy, which the hon. Lady referenced, strongly support “bag it and bin it”. Anything that detracts from that could cause confusion and undermine the essence of the issue, which is that we want dog owners to act responsibly, in the way that she describes. Does she think that we can have both messages?

Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans

I have done quite a lot of radio interviews on this today, and that is the tension. That is why signage is important. We should have easily recognisable graphics, because then people could see that there is somewhere to put the poo bags and that the poo will be collected. There is no point in bagging poo and then hunting in vain for a bin. That is when it gets lobbed.

We have to work with human nature. “Bag it and bin it” is one thing, but although that is the ideal solution, it is not the only one. I would like to expand on that. We need to look at Natural England’s “Countryside Code”, which is authorised by the Government to enhance comments on dog poo in the various situations that walkers find themselves in. The hon. Gentleman is quite right: that code says

“always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly—‘bag it and bin it’.”

That is a simple message. Unfortunately, as I showed the Minister before the debate—I am happy to show other people—that simple message is clearly not working. It works a lot of the time, but if someone picks up their dog poo bag, feels that they do not know what to do with it and then lobs it, that is a far worse scenario. Deer and cattle are ingesting the plastic bags. We must tackle that.

Part of the issue is about education. Dogs Trust is working with a pet provider, running education classes for brownies, guides, scouts and so on to try to educate the dog owners of the future. This is a relatively new phenomenon: we did not use to have dog poo bags.

Photo of Richard Arkless Richard Arkless Scottish National Party, Dumfries and Galloway

The hon. Lady is making a compelling case. I have attended walk-arounds with dog wardens in my constituency and they say that part of the process required is to educate not only dog owners and walkers but the general public, because the dog wardens cannot take action unless they see walkers depositing where they should not. Does she agree that part of the education process needs to be on the public, who could give information, to help the public help themselves?

Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans

I do. That is why I said that the approach of saying, “There are eyes watching you” does work. However, if someone is out walking their dog, do they want the grief of watching a person’s dog foul, going to find a ranger—assuming they know where he is—and having the argument about whether it was that dog given that the owner has walked off by that point? The situation is difficult, which is why we need a multi-strand approach.

I am not coming up with answers, but some suggestions: better signage, better placed bins, and a country code that says, “If you are here, this may be the appropriate thing to do. But if there are no bins, it would be inappropriate to bag.” We should get a set of graphics, which should be printed on dog poo bags to reinforce the message. There should be a dog poo bag code of disposal, a bit like for packets of cigarettes.

Dog poo bags are what plastic bags were yesterday. Given the number of pets in this country, I suggest that dog poo bags are as big an environmental problem as we had with people using disposable plastic bags from supermarkets. People use sandwich bags and all sorts, which flutter into waterways and float down into drains. We need to tackle that now and get a grip on it.

I would look at “The Countryside Code”. On farmland, I completely accept, as Jim Fitzpatrick said, that the NFU is opposed to dog poo being left in rural areas because of the risk posed to the health of cattle and sheep, which may eat the poo. We are back to the educative approach: the NFU has called for posters to be displayed in farmland areas to raise awareness of the problem and for a change to the “Scottish Outdoor Access Code”—I know this is a devolved matter, but it is worth looking at that—to explain the risks posed to cattle more clearly.

The NFU said that there has been an increase in cases of the disease Neospora, which can be spread by dogs that have eaten infected material from cattle, such as placentas from newly calved cows, and then through dog faeces. The parasite survives for several months and can contaminate the pasture and water supplies. I suggest that while that may have increased, that is one part of the entire problem that needs to be taken into account in the broad brush approach.

Of course, not all farmland has livestock on it, so we need to work with landowners to come up with signage to reflect the local disposal need. Improved signage should appear in lay-bys close to footpaths that cross farmland. People park up in lay-bys and ramble across farmland, where there will not be any bins, guidance or signage. Perhaps where the sign for the parking lay-by is could be an appropriate point to have a small graphic showing dog walkers how to deal with dog poo.

Finally, I know there have been suggestions about DNA testing. That theory has gained a lot of coverage in the media, being viewed by some as a silver bullet to the problems of dog fouling. However, to operate a successful DNA scheme, we would need all dog owners to volunteer to register their dog on a database. Then, using DNA technology, we would be able to trace exactly which dog had committed an offence.

There are fundamental flaws to that initiative at the present time. The major groups involved are not supportive and the scheme would come at considerable cost to local authorities in creating and filling a DNA register as well as carrying out the tests on the offending poo. As I said, we have abandoned the registering of dog fouling incidents; that process would be hugely costly and would not tackle the problem. We would need armies of people to police it. Improved signage should appear in lay-bys and close to footpaths—that would be more helpful. We have to get the public educated so that they feel that not dealing properly with dog fouling is as antisocial as smoking in public places.

I also see an issue in that the type of person who would allow their dog to foul would not register their dog on a DNA register anyway. We therefore need to tackle this problem with awareness and education. The Government have recently announced that they will come up with a new litter strategy. Since dog poo counts as refuse, it would be excellent if the work could incorporate that.

I have been told that I need to tell the Minister that he needs a PPS—a pragmatic poo strategy. I suggest that a pragmatic poo strategy would recognise both the failings of human nature and the need to enjoy the family walk and do the right thing. I look forward to hearing his comments. Hopefully, when he comes up with his new litter strategy, there will be input from landowners, councils, dog walkers, dogs trusts, forestry commissions and all those bodies who experience this problem and seek to encourage the public not to keep creating a mountain of refuse in our wildlife areas.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

The debate can last until 5.30 pm. I call Teresa Pearce.

Photo of Teresa Pearce Teresa Pearce Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Shadow Minister for the Constitutional Convention 4:47 pm, 14th March 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank Mrs Main for bringing the debate. It might not seem the most glamourous or exciting of topics, but keeping our communities clean and pleasant is a key part of local government’s remit. Ensuring that our streets, parks, playgrounds and open spaces are free from ugly, unhygienic dog mess is really important.

Dog mess is a source of nuisance to residents and an eyesore on many streets, from high streets in towns and city centres to country paths and village lanes. Roads littered with dog mess damage civic pride and tarnish the image of an area. It is unpleasant in both sight and smell, it is unhygienic, it spreads disease and it becomes a costly problem for local authorities to tackle. In fact, councils spend about £1 billion a year dealing with littering, including dog waste. Furthermore, dog owners who break the law on dog fouling and refuse to clean up after their dogs put the health of others at risk, particularly children.

It is children who are most at risk of contact with dog excrement, which can cause toxo—I cannot say the word.

Photo of Teresa Pearce Teresa Pearce Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Shadow Minister for the Constitutional Convention

That’s it—I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. It is a nasty infection that can lead to dizziness, nausea, asthma and even blindness and seizures.

It is not surprising that 47% of people in the UK think that dog fouling is one of the most annoying things they experience in public places. I recently met with a group of cyclists who told me that one of the worst things they encounter, when cycling through country lanes, are these “baubles”, which the hon. Lady referred to, hanging from trees, which hit them in the face as they are riding and trying to enjoy the countryside. The public rank dog fouling as even more annoying than general littering, pollution, traffic and smoking. According to Keep Britain Tidy, dog fouling is

“a major concern to members of the public”.

A survey that it undertook of more than 10,000 sites found dog mess left in 7% of places. As such, it is a major issue for local authorities.

We seem to have got the “bag it and bin it” message out in towns, but there needs to be a different message in the countryside. In particular, it is important to keep local parks free from dog mess. Parks and green spaces play a crucial role in the health of our communities, including the mental health and general wellbeing of our residents. Parks provide spaces for exercise, cultural events, picnics, walks and everyday contact with the natural environment, which is proven to have a positive impact on mental health—particularly in towns and cities, where people’s lives are increasingly confined to home, work and commuting between the two.

Parks and open spaces are crucial to improving health and happiness in a society with increasing levels of obesity and disorders such as depression and anxiety. In that context, it is disappointing that parks and green spaces are facing unprecedented budgetary cuts that threaten their future existence. More than 90% of park managers expect decreased funding this year, while 97% of street cleaning services expect decreased funding over the next five years. That reduction will amount to more than 20% of their funding, which will have an impact on the presence of dog mess on our streets and in our parks.

The hon. Member for St Albans mentioned earlier that DEFRA no longer collects figures regarding dog mess. I agree with her that doing so might be an unnecessary burden; however, BBC figures show that 103 of 302 local authorities surveyed did not issue any fines for dog fouling at all in 2014-15. Enforcement is quite difficult. As was explained, it has to be witnessed and somebody has to report it. It is almost impossible: somebody would need to be very lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans

I thank the hon. Lady for reinforcing that point. People are also reluctant to be confrontational. Putting the onus on somebody having to report somebody else is very difficult. I understand why. We have to face into this.

Photo of Teresa Pearce Teresa Pearce Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Shadow Minister for the Constitutional Convention

I completely agree. There are particularly bad dog owners in some parks quite near where I live. To be quite honest, one would not want to confront them—or the dog—on any issue, because they are quite aggressive people. I did a very unscientific survey among my friends earlier today. I asked if they understood what bin to put dog mess in, and a huge proportion thought it could only be put in the dog mess bin, which is not correct. These are regular dog walkers, yet they did not know that, so education is really important.

Many local authorities are using behaviour-change approaches to reduce dog fouling, but we need to make sure they are using the right message. As I said, “bag it and bin it” may be the right message in towns, but in the countryside it may be completely the wrong message and could actually cause further problems. I was particularly interested in the hon. Lady’s experiment with the chocolate éclair—I might see if I can find it on YouTube.

Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans

I can tell the hon. Lady that she can do that. They also put down a can of chilli sauce and a bread roll soaked in water. They gave me a flimsy stick to try to demonstrate sticking and flicking, but it was not really the best representation of the way to do it according to the Forestry Commission. The video is online.

Photo of Teresa Pearce Teresa Pearce Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Shadow Minister for the Constitutional Convention

I thank the hon. Lady for the clarification. Local authorities have been campaigning with public sector bodies such as Keep Britain Tidy and third sector organisations such as the Dogs Trust on the issue of dog fouling. Keep Britain Tidy’s 2010 campaign, “There’s no such thing as the dog poo fairy”, led to some communities seeing a 90% decrease in dog mess. The Dogs Trust’s “The Big Scoop” campaign involves posters, installations in parks and dispensers of free dog poo bags—although as we have heard, that might not be the answer in some areas.

In 2012, West Dunbartonshire Council armed its local clean-up workers with cans of bright spray paint to tag abandoned dog waste in a highly visible colour scheme to shame guilty dog owners and notify pedestrians that the dog waste was there. Leeds City Council’s litter and dog fouling campaign includes a reward scheme for people seen by enforcement officers using litter bins, and Manchester City Council ran a campaign with posters reinforcing responsibility for littering. However, dealing with these issues is expensive, and local authority budgets are restricted at this time, so we need to change behaviours. I was a dog owner for many years; unfortunately we lost our little Jack Russell, Mrs Biggles, last year. I would never have dreamt of bagging and not binning. If I could not bin, I would take it home. However, I was not on a long country walk, which is a different circumstance altogether; I was always relatively near where I live.

Unless there is continued investment in campaigns to deter dog owners from shirking their responsibilities, we will see regression in a culture that has actually been steadily improving for years. Lack of bins, particularly on public footpaths through the countryside, can also prevent dog owners from collecting dog mess. However, it is not only the lack of bins; it is about disposing of the dog mess properly. It is incomprehensible that anybody could think it was okay to bag and then just throw or flick. It is the equivalent of someone throwing a fast food bag out of the car as they drive along. It is basically pushing the responsibility for clearing it up on to somebody else. I was particularly struck by the reference to plastic shopping bags and how this is becoming a similar issue. One of my local councils recently suggested that it could increase its income by putting advertising on dog poo bags, because so many are sold. I am not quite sure whether that is a good idea or not—it is innovative, if nothing else.

Dog mess is the most unacceptable and offensive type of litter on our streets, and dog fouling is one of the most annoying and avoidable issues that concerns the public. However, the problem will not disappear on its own. An estimated 8 million dogs produce more than 1,000 tonnes of mess every day in the UK alone. Nearly a quarter of British people find dog mess in their local city, town or village at least once a day, and almost three quarters of people experience that on a weekly basis. We need to educate dog owners. The “bag it and bin it” message seems to have been successful, but this new phenomenon needs tackling. The hon. Lady said that she is not coming up with the answer today, but she is identifying and publicising the problem, which is the first step in finding an answer. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

At the end of Minister’s response, Anne Main will have the opportunity to sum up the debate.

Photo of Marcus Jones Marcus Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Local Government) 4:56 pm, 14th March 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank my hon. Friend Mrs Main for securing this important debate. It is easy to make light of this subject; many puns, jokes and all of those sorts of things come to mind. I reassure my hon. Friend that I will not venture down that path, because this is an extremely important and serious issue—not only for my hon. Friend’s constituents, but for our constituents right across the country.

Our manifesto included a clear commitment to be the first Government to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. While Government policy on local environmental quality issues, including litter and dog fouling, is led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I assure my hon. Friend that DEFRA works very closely with my Department on these issues, and I certainly take a keen personal interest in them as well.

This country is often described as a nation of animal lovers: with a population of more than 8.5 million dogs—one dog for every seven people—we can certainly say that we love our dogs. We know that owning a dog brings companionship. According to some studies it can also bring certain health benefits, such as the lowering of blood pressure and overall stress levels. Of course, when someone exercises their dog, they are exercising themselves.

Having a clean environment in which to live, work and exercise, including exercising our pets, is of great importance. There is certainly evidence that a poor-quality local environment affected by problems such as litter, dog fouling and graffiti can restrict that area’s economic growth, reduce property prices and increase people’s fear of crime. That, in turn, discourages people from going outside, exercising and being an active part of their local community.

As we all know, with dog ownership comes significant responsibility. All dog owners are required by law to provide for the welfare needs of their animals, and they must ensure that their dogs are under proper control at all times. That includes dealing with the inevitable consequences of owning a dog, including cleaning up after them. One estimate puts the amount of dog faeces produced daily in England at more than 1,000 tonnes. Littering and dog fouling are, without question, deeply antisocial actions that pose a significant risk to human health and animal welfare.

For local authorities, maintaining a clean local environment is a significant financial issue. It costs councils hundreds of millions of pounds every year to clean up litter, including removing dog waste from our streets and public streets. Local authorities should not have to do that. Dog fouling is an avoidable problem. We have to acknowledge, as my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans did, that most dog owners are very careful; they clean up after their pets and are responsible people. That said, we must do more to take on the small minority who think it is right and appropriate to leave the mess that my hon. Friend described and has provided me with pictures of, from situations across the country. We must hold those people to account.

This is a significant issue, but we must look at the overall context. The latest local environmental quality survey of England found that fewer than 10% of sites surveyed were affected by dog fouling or bagged dog faeces in 2014-15. The few irresponsible dog owners who do not clean up and leave an unsightly, unhygienic mess spoil somewhat the environment for all other users.

Research has found that dog fouling is perceived by more than two thirds of people to be the most offensive type of litter. I certainly agree with them. Recently, on the day of the Great British Spring Clean, I went out on several occasions in my constituency with teams to pick up litter, and I can identify with what my hon. Friend said. I found myself on a riverbank collecting litter, a significant amount of which was caused by this very problem—people doing the right thing and bagging up their dog faeces but then, for some inexplicable reason, thinking it is right to either put it down on the grass or throw it into the hedge. That seems remarkable, and particularly so in the location involved, because there was a dedicated dog fouling bin within a matter of 100 metres. My hon. Friend is raising an issue that is extremely pertinent right across the country.

Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans

I thank the Minister for sharing that personal experience with us. Councils have said that their operatives are having to climb into trees to cut these bags down and are coming across decomposing poo. That is bad for the health of the council operatives and a more costly way to collect. It is a litter and refuse problem tied together, which is really the worst combination.

Photo of Marcus Jones Marcus Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Local Government)

I completely agree. This is a completely unacceptable practice that causes a huge problem to local authorities, which are left with the prospect of having to sort out the issue left behind by the very people who pay the council tax. We might think that those people look at their council tax bill and ask, “Do I want to spend part of my council tax on a problem that I am creating?” There is a real issue in terms of education, which I will come on to in a moment.

Having said that, it is still in local authorities’ interests to invest in maintaining a clean and welcoming environment, to improve wellbeing and attract inward investment. A number of councils and other organisations are looking at innovative solutions, examples of which have been given today. We know that signage can have an impact. Examples such as Keep Britain Tidy’s successful poster campaign on dog fouling—my hon. Friend mentioned the demon eyes on the poster, watching us—have had a positive outcome in the areas where they have been used.

As my hon. Friend mentioned, the Forestry Commission is encouraging people to use the stick and flick method in the forest, moving the waste away from the path into the undergrowth, where it can be naturally broken down. There were also recent articles about provision of poo bag dispensers in an Aberdeen community and areas in Stoke where they are trialling a fine of £100, using a public spaces protection order, if dog walkers fail to carry poo bags. I acknowledge what has been said in relation to enforcement. That comes with its challenges, and therefore alongside any enforcement activity there must be significant education, so that people finally realise this is not an acceptable practice.

Different methods work in different places. The stick and flick method certainly may work where the Forestry Commission advocates it, but as my hon. Friend said, the Forestry Commission does not advise that practice near car parks or other sensitive areas. It may also not be acceptable in urban parks and areas where there are housing developments.

My hon. Friend talked about signage and a number of other initiatives that could be used, such as more information on waste bins and the manufacturing of the bags. Teresa Pearce made an important point about advertising. The packaging that bags come in could be used as a way of informing dog owners of the right thing to do. Those are things we will look at.

We have a litter strategy, which will be published. We do not just want that strategy to be a document that sits on the shelf, gathering dust and not doing the job we intend it to. We will have a number of working groups, including organisations involved in providing bins, manufacturers of packaging and so on. We fully intend, through those working groups, to look at some of the individual challenges and see if we can come up with solutions. I am certainly keen to hear more from my hon. Friend—or indeed, any other hon. Member in this House—if she comes across any ideas that we may be able to take on to deal with this important issue.

There is no excuse for dog fouling. Some dog walkers seem to think it is acceptable to leave their mess behind. They think someone will pick the bag up or, in the worst case scenario, they are just completely ignorant and do not think they need to deal with it, because someone else will pick up the tab. We should be clear that this is disgusting, antisocial, dangerous to human health and dangerous to animals and other wildlife. We should, at every turn, encourage people to act responsibly and follow the vast majority of dog owners who do the right thing by picking up after their dogs and, if there is no bin, taking the bag home.

Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans 5:09 pm, 14th March 2017

I thank the Minister for those very helpful comments. I suggest broadening the approach to include, for example, pet food manufacturers and vets. Clear guidance should be printed on everything—a bit like tobacco warnings—and there should be more use of advertising. As Teresa Pearce, who speaks for the Opposition, said, people are not aware that they can use ordinary bins. There needs to be signage on ordinary bins to show that they can be used for dog poo waste. There should be a graphic on all these things.

I have explained what we need to be doing. It is really important that we get feed-in from countryside landowners, farmers and, as I said, vets and pet food manufacturers. Let us exploit the good will that is out there for those of us who love our pets. I would not mind reading on the side of my dog food tin about how to dispose of dog poop. We should all have that information. It should become a matter of course for this practice not to be tolerated. As the hon. Lady said, it is exactly like jettisoning stuff out of a car window. That used to happen such a lot, and it still does happen, but not as much.

Let me close with the poem that the Forestry Commission likes everyone to read:

“If your dog should do a plop, take a while and make a stop, just find a stick and flick it wide into the undergrowth at the side.

If your dog should do a do, you don’t want it on your shoe, find a stick, pick a spot, flick into the bushes so it can rot.

If your dog should do a poo, this is what you should do, just find a stick and flick it wide into the undergrowth at the side.

If your dog should make a mess there really is no need to stress. Find a stick, pick a spot, flick into the bushes so it can rot.”

With that, I rest my case, Mr Hollobone.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered dog fouling.

Sitting adjourned.