Be a responsible Dog Walker
Article last updated at 22:41 on the 26th March 2017 by Hugh Marchant.
A letter in the March 2016 edition of our Village Magazine Sway News raised the very important issue of responsible dog walking. It is not acceptable for those of us who walk dogs to leave their excrement for others to encounter. There is no excuse. Carrying around and using "doggy bags" should be as natural as carrying a lead, ensuring that your dog has a name tag, and ensuring that your dog is micro chipped. It should also be as natural as keeping your dog under strict control near New Forest ponies and other livestock, but that (as they say) is another story.
Sway has a dog mess problem. It also has a number of dog bins: Middle Road by the village hall, Church Lane by Setthorns Road, Manchester Road by Durrant Way. There are also a number of litter bins where you can dispose of bagged dog waste such as Brighton Road by the Cemetery, and down at Gilpin Hill, Station Road by the railway bridge, Youth Centre and Jubilee Field, Durnstown above the cattle grid at the war memorial, and many others. But even still a lot of dog poo is left lying around by irresponsible dog owners. No matter where your dog decides to perform, you should pick it up. Even in long grass on verges it is not acceptable to leave it.
If your walk does not take you close to any suitable bin, then you must still pick up and carry it home to be disposed of in normal household waste.
And what if you have forgotten to bring a bag with you on your walk? Ask another dog walker. Most responsible dog walkers will be only too happy to help if they can.
We would also like to remind everyone that dogs (other than guide dogs) are not allowed anywhere on Jubilee Field or on the Stanford Rise open space. Please ensure you keep your dogs away from these areas.
I have often approached others and offered them a bag to enable them to clean up after their pooches. Sometimes my offer has been gracefully accepted, but in far too many cases I have been subjected to argument and even abuse.
On 2nd January 2017 at around 11am at Horseshoe Bottom I had a most surreal experience while clearing up after my own dog. A woman walking two Weimaraners told me that she utterly disagreed with what I was doing. It was not as if I had approached her offering doggy bags. She was simply walking her two dogs past where I was picking up. I was absolutely speechless to be effectively told off for being a responsible dog walker. Then I looked around at the other dog walkers in sight and wondered just how many of those felt the same as she did. Frankly when I consider the number of people I actually see picking up or carrying, I strongly suspect that I may well be in a minority. I hope I am wrong.
Anyway, suffice it to say that it appears that a number of people do not feel it is their duty to pick up after their dogs.
This is not the case.
You can be given an on-the-spot fine if you don't clean up after your dog. The amount varies from council to council. It's often £50 and can be as much as £80.
If you refuse to pay the fine, you can be taken to court and fined up to £1,000.
Registered blind dog owners can't be fined.
Some councils have stricter rules on dog fouling. They may make owners carry a poop scoop and disposable bag when they take their dogs out to a public place.
Considerate dog owners are always welcome in the New Forest; please clear up after your dog to keep it a pleasant place for everybody.
You can use any plastic bag to pick up your dog's waste and put it in one of the dog waste bins or litter bins. Dog waste from your garden can be double-bagged and placed in your black refuse sack.
It is important for all dog owners to take responsibility for cleaning up after their animal as, not only is it unpleasant to look at and even more unpleasant to step in, it can pose a health risk. For example, Toxocariasis is a rare infection caused by roundworms in the digestive tracts of dogs. It can cause headaches, eye problems and fever in humans if they come into contact with it.
If you spot a dog fouling problem, you can report it to Customer Services on 023 8028 5000 or report it online.
New Forest District Council can fine those who fail to pick up after their dog £50 so please ensure you have bags or poop scoops with you every time you walk your dog.
Those who think that New Forest bylaws only require cleanup around car parks should read the New Forest Dog walking code which states:
Pick up after your dog wherever you are, especially where people walk, play, park or picnic.
Put bagged dog poo in a dog bin or litter bin, or take it home.
This code is fully endorsed by New Forest Dog Owners Group, so there is really no reason for any doubt.
So, even on the open forest you should pick up after your dog. Some seem to think that just because the ponies, cattle and donkeys leave mess, then they can let their dogs do the same. This is not true. Ask yourself which manure would you be happy to put on your rhubarb? Horse or Dog? I know what my answer would be! If yours is different then please do not invite me around to dinner! Another way of looking at it is this: you fed it in at one end, it is your responsibility when it comes out of the other.
The state of areas around many of the New Forest car parks is frankly disgusting. One reason I wear wellies is to ensure that I change into different footwear before getting back into my car. Too often have I only realised my error as shoes began exuding their unique perfume on the way back home!
Picking up after your dog should be second nature. In the winter it can even be quite pleasant having something to warm your hands on a cold day. Mistaking a different and hence colder pile for your pooch's can be quite a shock - but then you can complete even that task with a warm feeling in your heart of a job well disposed of. Dispose of the bag properly in a dog bin or litter bin. If none are available or they are full, then take the bag home and dispose of it double bagged in your household waste. Never leave it on the forest. Who in their right mind could believe that hanging a bag full of dog poo from the branch of a bush or tree might be acceptable?
Here are some of the filled and then discarded poo bags that since the end of March 2016 I have either placed in a bin close by or had to take home to dispose of in my household waste because the original owners clearly believe there is a magical "dog poo fairy" who will clean up after them. The sad thing is that they must be right, and I'm it? However I would rather not be!
To save you counting, the grand total for the year is 234 dog poo bags. This means I massively exceeded my target for collecting and disposing at least 144 pre-filled bags in one year which I think anyone would have thought might have been accurately termed "a GROSS of GROSSNESS"! I will now have to think of another slogan - how about over 2 Hundredweight of Grossness! I wonder how long it would take me to reach 288 bags - or might that just be 2 (too) Gross?!
If you are some distance away from the nearest bin, do not leave the bag behind intending to pick it up on the way back. Too many times you will forget or will find yourself following a different route. Carrying a full doggie bag is like wearing a badge of honour. People will praise you for being so clearly considerate. Personally I carry a more discrete wash bag containing a large number of empty doggy bags, into which I also put the full ones until I have reached an appropriate disposal point.
And to dispose of all doubt as to what makes a suitable disposal point, this is where a large number of the above bags were disposed of by me.
It's not a particularly difficult task, but I would far prefer the original dog walker to be doing this instead of me! My own dog generates more than sufficient without my having to deal with all of yours'!
And for those who like statistics, here's a chart showing where all these bags were discovered.
And finally, why oh why would anybody want to use this lovely bush at Horseshoe Bottom as a depository for those final 5 dog poo bags. Please show some respect for the beauty of our forest. You presumably came here because you enjoy the views. Let everybody else do the same without your unwanted additions to this sensitive environment.
Remember, if a stranger approaches you offering you a free doggy bag, please accept their offer with good grace, use the bag appropriately and dispose of it considerately. Do not argue with that person as it just might be me!
Thank you for your attention, and let's make our Parish and surrounding areas a place to be proud of.