DOG walkers could be fined if they leave the house without having bags to pick up their pooches’ poop.
The idea is being considered by councillors in Monmouthshire as part of new controls on dogs in public places such as requirements to keep them on leads in certain areas and potential bans on taking dogs to places such as children’s play areas or marked sports pitches.
The county council is drawing up Public Spaces Protection Orders which would set legally enforceable controls.
The orders however will include the first blanket, county wide, requirement for dog owners to pick up their dog’s poo. Previously there has only been such a requirement in designated areas.
The council’s place scrutiny committee considered the draft orders, and what they should include, and said it was concerned at how the council would enforce the rules and how it would fund enforcement.
Cllr Su McConnel, who represents Croesonen, said a requirement to carry bags to collect the poo would make enforcement easier but council officials acknowledged there could be a difficulty if people say they have run out of bags while exercising their pets.
Labour member Cllr McConnel said: “It will mean you don’t have to catch them, you can approach and say ‘do you have the bags?’ For that reason I think it’s a really good idea.”
She had also said she was concerned whether the council had enough people to enforce the rules.
Committee chair Lisa Dymock backed a requirement to carry bags for poo, which is currently officially worded as: “A person in charge of a dog must have with them an appropriate means to pick up any faeces deposited by that dog, and must produce this if requested to do so by an authorised officer.”
The Conservative councillor for Portskewett said: “I think it’s vitally important as it indicates the intention to pick up after your dog, if not you obviously don’t have the intention to do so.”
Osbaston Conservative Jane Lucas said though she “absolutely agreed” with Cllr Dymock she wanted to know what would happen if a dog owner said they have run out of bags.
Cllr Dymock said: “That can happen, as a dog owner, there will be times you’re caught short and I’ve had to drive back to where the dog did its business.”
Principle environmental health officer Huw Owen said there had been discussions within the council on that point but said every case of enforcement needs to be considered on its own basis. He said: “Officers are not robots, there has to be discretion.”
He said enforcement is likely to be “intelligence-led”, with people providing information to the council, and officers likely to rely on “dog walkers being creatures of habit”. If they were to challenge someone who they were told “never picks up”, he said: “will they (officers) listen? Probably not in that situation.”
Mr Owen said the council’s five environmental health officers are currently authorised to issue fixed penalty notices, or on the spot fines, and waste and street cleaning teams could be provided with in house training so they could also issue fines as could staff from other council departments such as its estate teams and leisure.
Police Community Support Officers could also issue fines on behalf of the council as would the authority’s own traffic wardens.
But Mr Owen said the council had some 12 years ago tried “proactive patrols” to combat dog fouling which he said weren’t “efficient or effective” and he said the council could write to people if they were suspected of breaking any rules.
Cabinet member Paul Griffiths said the most significant investment would be in effective signage, which Mr Owen had said was crucial to ensure people are aware of any controls especially if the council was to seek to fine them for any breach.
Labour’s Cllr Griffiths said: “For signage I’ve seen figures, we may be talking £20,000. Whatever it is the council will have to face up to that.”
Wyesham independent councillor Emma Bryn said as a dog owner she recognised restrictions to keep dogs on leads are appropriate for children’s play areas but said the Dog’s Trust had commented it is important they are able to run freely and “let off steam”.
Including marked sports pitches in any restricted area would need “further scrutiny”, said Cllr Bryn. Earlier in the meeting Severn ward Labour councillor Maria Stevens said dog fouling was an issue in Caldicot and “we’ve had football matches cancelled as there are not enough people to clear up where the dogs have been.”
The council is due to hold further public consultation on what regulations it should introduce and the committee will consider the issue again before a report is brought to the cabinet for a decision.