Barking Mad

dog pooThe announcement that the London Borough of Barking (you couldn’t make it up!) has initiated a pilot to create a database of the DNA of its 18,000 canine residents in order to fine owners for not picking up faeces caused a rash of press puns.

Owners who don’t pick up cause a nuisance and give us all a bad name and they are often also the same owners who refuse to put their dogs on a lead and thus don’t even see their dogs defecating. However, this could mean that responsible owners leaving a scrap behind or having one of those days when the leaves offer perfect camouflage and even the brightest torch cannot help, will bear the brunt of punishments. Irresponsible owners will find a way round the law and evade fines as they do with any other sanction.

Barking plan to introduce a public space protection order (PSPO) to make DNA testing mandatory. Presumably they will also impose “dog ASBOs” on persistent offenders. At the moment, registering appears to be voluntary. However, it seems likely that owners who already pick up will be those who will register in the mistaken impression that they will not make easy targets for the council.

Daventry District Council are currently consulting on a proposal to fine dog handlers £100 rising to £1,000 if they are caught without the means of picking up. Woe betide any owner that uses the last bag. Having come up with the odd creative solution when caught out myself, it will be interesting to see what the courts will decide constitutes the means of picking up – horse chestnut leaf and the occasional discarded crisp bag springs to mind! One man’s litter is another man’s dog poo container. So you could say that forgetting a poo bag could even become a public service.

It would be interesting to compare the amount spent on clearing discarded chewing gum from pavements, never mind sweeping up discarded cigarette butts, with the actual amount of dog faeces encountered.

It is an easy option for councils to impose punishments and fines on dog owners who make the odd error; a much harder one to put resources into educating irresponsible owners and paying for sufficient, full time dog wardens.

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