Plymouth Newsroom, latest news and information Zinio magazines

A dog owners responsibility

All owners/walkers have responsibilities in the community and should not allow their pets to foul indiscriminately. This is an offensive act to other people and in the eyes of the law, which is governed by the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Fouling is one of the main complaints levelled against dog owners/walkers particularly in urban areas. It is not difficult to train the dog to relieve itself (urinate and defecate) on command. Ideally this should be on the owners premises or simply bagged up and disposed of in the bin.

Where is the law enforced?

Virtually everywhere except:

  • carriageways with a speed limit of more than 40 mph and land running alongside it
  • land used for agriculture and for farmed woodlands
  • land which is predominantly marshland, moor or heath
  • rural common land

When is there no offence committed?

No offence committed if:

  • the person in charge of the dog is a registered blind person
  • 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 remove the fouling are not reasonable excuses)
  • the owner, occupier or person having control of the land has consented to the faeces being left on the ground

Enforcement

The enforcement at present is carried out by dog wardens and patrolling is only part of their duties. The Council have educated other officers/representatives from various departments as to the legal requirements and the action they can also take. They could inform offenders of the law and take enforcement action or provide relevant statements for use towards prosecutions.

Toxocariasis

You may ask, why has the law been passed calling for dog fouling to be stamped out? Why has there been legislation put into place targeting dog owners/walkers alike, saying You will pick up or else?

Why is everything aimed at the dog, and not at the cat or the fox? They defecate too! As Dog Wardens, we get these questions all the time and to reply, we must start with the source of the problem Toxocara itself.

Toxocariasis is caused by members of the Toxocara genus of the roundworm family; Toxocara Canis being carried by dogs and foxes, Toxocara Cati being carried by cats.

The female roundworm lays a large number of eggs (microscopic), which are passed in the faeces of the host (all puppies, kittens and fox cubs are born with worms passed on by mum). Although non-infectious when passed, the eggs can mature in soil at which point a larva will have developed in the egg.

If ingested by a human, the larvae cannot develop into an adult worm but digestive juices stimulate hatching and the larvae itself may then burrow through the gut wall and enter other parts of the body principally by the blood stream. The migrating larvae cannot survive the human body and will eventually die. They can be filtered out by the liver and will certainly be attacked by the immune system this may result in the larvae becoming encrusted in the tissue at the point at which it dies.

Most often described than this damage (visceral larvae migrons) is the ocular toxocariasis (ocular larvae migrons) in which a migrating larvae gets caught in a blood vessel in the eye. Damage is then caused by the body's white cells attacking the larvae. The damage will depend on the position in the eye at which the migrating larvae becomes encrusted.

All sources of infection, such as the dog, the cat and the fox, are potentially risking everyone's health and safety. Organisations such as the Dog Warden Units, Vets, RSPCA, PDSA up and down the country, openly preach the proper worming programmes for all cats and dogs. Worming will deal with the domestic hosts. After all, reasonable people, responsible owners love their pets don't they? They will definitely help to safeguard the humans in our communities by regularly and safely programming their pets to pooh in certain areas or worm them appropriately or, at the very worst onset, at least they will pick up after their pets have defecated in a public area. YET, that doesn't happen does it? The fox is the only natural source of infection and that is because no one is responsible for the fox. No one has control over it. I have only dealt with two urban foxes in my six years as a Dog Warden!

Let us look at the transmission of this infection. We know that infection works by oral transmission. That means that the eggs must be swallowed contrary to widespread public belief that they cannot be rubbed into the eye or penetrate the skin. Hand to mouth contamination applies not only to Toxocara but to other infections as well, some of which are fatal to those who contract them, unlike Toxocariasis which, although is debilitating, is a non-fatal infection. When we go into schools to give talks on animals and human care etc. we underline the fact that above all we are part of a potentially hazardous world and we educate children by teaching them to respect germs and infections, the type of which co-exist with us. We openly encourage the guys to wash their hands every chance they get. Precautions we can take:

  • All domestic pets should be wormed regularly.  Puppies should be wormed from two weeks of age onwards and adult dogs should be wormed every six months.
  • Always pick up after your dog.
  • Adults and children should wash their hands before eating and after playing with or stroking a dog, especially puppies.
  • Always wash fruit and vegetables.
  • Encourage children to avoid sucking dirty fingers.
  • Don't allow children to play on the ground and eat using their fingers at the same time.
  • Don't allow children to suck grass.
  • Don't let your pets eat from the same plates as humans.
  • Be sure floors where children play are clean.
  • Don't leave children with a pet unless the animal is six months old.
  • Don't allow pets to lick your child's face.
  • Be careful that your dog does not foul public play areas.
  • Beware of treading or wheeling contaminated soil indoors.
  • Wash your pets bedding frequently, every one or two weeks and dry it very thoroughly.

Toxocara eggs are present in the faeces of infected animals. These eggs can remain in the soil for two years or more after the faeces have disappeared. It takes approximately 30 days for faecal matter to break down naturally with wind, rain, sun and human help.

Symptoms

The symptoms can be unpleasant and difficult to treat. They can include stomach upset and pain, seizures (as experienced with epilepsy), headache, sore throat, asthma, bronchitis and other pulmonary infections. Luckily cases of permanent blindness, as above, are rare.

Remedy

The secret here is hygiene isn't it? We should all openly encourage, educate and advertise washing hands wherever and whenever possible.

Dog Warden Service

Here is a list of some of the relevant departments and organisations that have dealings with the service, people and their pets:

Vets, schools, post office, social services, Environmental Health departments, bailiffs, local authorities, Police, gas, electric and water authorities, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Environment Agency, Recreation Park Ranger services, rabies contingency plan, magistrates, unwants and stray dogs, National Farmers Union, National Canine Defence League (NCDL), Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affiars (DEFRA), Gables Farm Dogs and Cats Home, farms, housing department and associations and many others! Below are some examples of how we are involved.

Post Office

Occasionally the delivery men/women have difficulty in posting parcels, letters alike. As well as the Post Office having their own literature, which they hand to the problem customers, they have come through us to clarify and report dangerous dogs. We may attend and advise.

Park Ranger Services

There are 910 hectares of leisure land which not only includes playgrounds and parks but also the tourist areas such as Mount Batten, Jennycliff, Staddiscombe, Devils Point and the like. Our Park Ranger works with the Enforcement Team to police fouling incidents. It is an offence under the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 if a dog defecates at any time on designated land.

Council Housing Departments/Other Housing Associations

Housing Authorities within the public and private sectors, in their dealings with noisy/smelly/unsound properties, have all contacted us with regard to the possible removal of animals or simply to advise on the legal situation.

Social Services

The event of a death or hospitalisation when no one is left to care for an animal, we are sometimes required to transport the animal/s to an animal care home.

Public dogs (Unwants)

A stray is not just an escaped animal, it could be an unwant and therefore an abandoned object. As Dog Wardens we are legally entitled to collect the animal and take it to the Dogs and Cats Home for collection or return.

Gas/Electricity/Water Boards

All these services have had to attend various premises in an emergency and, therefore, often need the Dog Wardens help in order to gain access to the property.

Rabies Contingency Plan

The Dog Wardens do not speak dog language and, unfortunately, the dogs (none of them) speak English! We are a port city and have many visitors to our shores via ships and boats, from all over the world. The next stray that is picked up could well have rabies or some other equally unpleasant contagious disease.

The Dog Wardens have a Safe Rabies Contingency Plan in place

The Dog Wardens have dealings with animal welfare groups such as RSPCA, People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), NCDL, Kennel Club etc. They also have connections with Gables Farm Dogs and Cats Home, Woodside Animal Shelter, Tiggywinkles Farm, and numerous other sanctuaries for all sorts of animals.

For more information on rabies please look at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website.

Defra also provide various application forms available to download:

Want to know more? Need further information?

Contact Plymouth City Council Dog Warden Service on 01752 304147 or email animals@plymouth.gov.uk

[Back to top]