Image caption, Roger and Ciara Nevo regularly walk Buddy in Clarence Park and said “something has to be done” about the dog mess issue

Dog fouling and irresponsible dog ownership is a subject that frequently gets people talking. Now a council says it is cracking down on those who flout its rules.

Dog walkers in North Somerset will be asked to prove they have the means to pick up after their pet or risk a £75 on-the-spot fine. There will also be fines for those who allow dogs off their leads in areas where they should not be. The BBC has been talking to those most affected.

It is an autumnal afternoon in Weston-super-Mare and Clarence Park is busy with dog walkers.

As many locals know, on one side of the park dogs can run free to their hearts’ content, but cross the road and dogs must be kept on the lead.

But this distinction has caught many dog walkers out, with several saying while they support the fines, the signage needs to be better.

John Cope, who lives nearby, said he was fined because his dog Rosie was spotted off the lead on the wrong side of the park.

“I didn’t know about the fines and I think it is disgusting,” he said.

“I know three or four old ladies, who are 70 or 80, and two of those have been done too.

“I’ve never seen a dog off the lead that has done anything wrong. As far as I am concerned it is just a way for the council to generate revenue.”

The issues around dogs being off their leads vary from keeping control of dogs around small children, to that of dog poo, and more specifically – cleaning it up.

Image caption, The worst offending areas will be added to a list of hotspots that council contractors will patrol

North Somerset Council is asking residents to report locations of dog fouling using the Pooper Snooper app.

Once identified through the app, the worst offending areas will be added to a list of hotspots for the council to patrol.

These areas will be targeted by a contractor, who will issue fines for the following offences:

Anyone seen not picking up after their dogAnyone seen not disposing of bagged dog waste correctly by taking it home or putting it in a binNot having a receptacle to pick up after their dog (for example a bag)Allowing dogs off a lead in areas covered by the current Public Space Protection Order Walking their dog within a dog exclusion zoneDog owners in Weston-super-Mare are mostly supportive of the move.

Ciara and Roger Nevo, who were walking their dog Buddy, said anything that encourages people to behave responsibly must be seen as a positive.

“I’m all for it. It’s the dog owners that don’t keep an eye on their dogs that give the rest of us a bad name. It drives us mad,” said Ms Nevo.

“You find dog poo in the middle of a path, it is very obvious, so why not pick it up? Something has to be done about it.”

Image caption, Charles Gray said he regularly sees people not picking up after their pets

Another dog owner Richard Baker said: “I think it’s fair to fine people, but the signage needs to be better… as people just say they were not aware of the penalties.

“Personally I don’t think £75 is actually enough. You should be responsible enough to bring a bag with you.”

Charles Gray, who was with his dog Katie, said unfortunately many people did not pick up after their dog.

“You don’t want to be running around and fall over and have that on you.

“If you own a dog you have got responsibilities, and those responsibilities are that you pick up after them, not just once, all the time.”

Image caption, Mother Kasia Blaszkow said dog mess was a big problem for people with small children

Kasia Blaszkow enjoys walking in the park with her two-year-old son, but said: “Lately [the dog mess] is more than usual, in the park, but also on the pavements, you have to keep your head down and watch out for it.

“Especially with a child who is running and not watching for it.

“It gets on everything, prams, scooters, shoes, it is so hard to wash the shoes off, it’s horrible.”

Image caption, Liz Bedford and Richard Baker are in support of the new measures but say signage needs to be better

Friends of Clarence Park volunteer, Liz Bedford said while she supported the council’s policies, she had witnessed some of the enforcement officers being “quite aggressive” with elderly women.

“If you are caught more than once then you should be fined because you have been told, but don’t go wading straight in and demanding an on-the-spot fine as the signage isn’t that clear for having your dog off the lead,” she said.

“This is stick and no carrot, you need to explain to people why it is not a good idea to have your dog off a lead.”

The council’s executive member for neighbourhoods and community services, Mike Solomon, said: “Unfortunately due to a minority of dog owners who don’t clear up after their pets, dog mess continues to blight our towns, villages and open spaces.

“By proactively asking dog walkers to prove they have a means to pick up after their dog we will be tackling this issue head-on.”

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