JUST 23 inconsiderate dog owners in north east Fife have been fined for failing to pick up after their pets since the beginning of 2010, the Fife Herald can reveal.
But with three new dog wardens set to be unleashed on the area, Fife Council has vowed to get tough with people who allow their animals to foul our parks, paths and pavements.
The extra wardens are being provided at a cost of £84,000 for 12 months and will work on a flexible basis across north east Fife — including shifts early in the morning, into the evening and at weekends.
Like the existing wardens, they will have the power to issue £40 fixed penalty notices to irresponsible owners caught in the act.
Elaine Devine, the council’s environment team leader, said: “Dog fouling is certainly the number one complaint that councillors and ourselves consistently receive from members of the public.
“The vast majority of dog owners know what they should be doing and act responsibly, so it’s very frustrating that a few people are still not getting the message.
“We will issue fixed penalty notices whenever we catch people, and if they don’t pay their fines then we will pursue them.”
Fife Council assumed responsibility for issuing fixed penalty notices mid-way through 2009.
Figures obtained by the Fife Herald show that in 2010, 12 fines were dished out to dog owners in north east Fife, compared with 80 in the Kingdom as a whole.
Last year the figures were nine and 47 respectively, while to date in 2012 just two fixed penalty notices have been issued in north east Fife — nine across the Kingdom.
Ms Devine said: “We’d like to think that the number of fixed penalty notices has been going down because more people have been getting the message.
“Ideally we wouldn’t have to issue any, but the likelihood is that the number will go up because of the extra wardens patrolling on the ground.
“We need members of the public to give us as much information as possible, and the wardens will be actively engaging with people in the community to encourage them to keep their eyes open.
“It can be very difficult to catch people offending, but if members of the public report incidents to us then we can act based on their evidence.”
It appears there is still plenty of work to do to tackle the problem, with dozens of disgusted north east Fifers making their views known on the Fife Herald’s Facebook page.
Environmental group Sustainable Cupar carried out a litter pick along the Orchard Walk behind Millgate on Sunday.
They marked every canine ‘deposit’ with one of 50 flags — but had run out within 100m.
Councillors at last week’s north east Fife area committee meeting welcomed the funding for extra dog wardens.
Tay Bridgehead councillor Tim Brett said: “This issue comes up time and time and time again in our communities.
“I’m very pleased this is happening, and we should make sure we educate as well as enforce.”
But a note of caution was sounded by Cupar councillor Bryan Poole, who said: “I welcome the fact this suggestion has come forward, but north east Fife is a huge geographical area.
“It’s going to be very difficult to catch people doing this.
“I’m particularly concerned about dogs being left to their own devices in our parks.
“We need to aim for more prosecutions and perhaps look at introducing by-laws banning dogs from some parks.
“One suggestion from someone in my ward was for the dog wardens to ‘blitz’ certain areas at different times.”
Fife Council provided free ‘poo bags’ from their local offices until February 2008, when the service was cut as part of that year’s budget.
A council spokesperson said: “The free bags were introduced at a time when the relevant legislation in relation to dog fouling was weak and rarely enforced.”