Guide to dog fouling and UK law

Dog mess on the pavements isn’t just unpleasant, it’s a serious health risk – especially to children. In the UK, dog owners are legally required to clean up after their pet when they’re out and about in public places. Not doing so could result in a hefty penalty, so here’s our guide to dog fouling and UK law.

Dog mess on the pavements isn’t just unpleasant, it’s a serious health risk – especially to children. In the UK, dog owners are legally required to clean up after their pet when they’re out and about in public places. Not doing so could result in a hefty penalty, so here’s our guide to dog fouling and UK law.

Tom Harrison
Insurance expert
4
minute read
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Posted 12 JANUARY 2022

Dog fouling penalties and fines

The Keep Britain Tidy campaign estimates there are more than eight million dogs producing more than 1,000 tonnes of ‘mess’ in the UK every day.

And now, dog fouling in public places in England and Wales is included in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, introduced in 2014. This legislation covers dog-fouling offences that were previously included in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

Your local council decides what public spaces will be covered by a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). Public places covered by the law normally include:

  • roads, pavements and public footpaths
  • parks and green spaces
  • town centres and shopping precincts
  • car parks
  • playing fields, playgrounds and school grounds

If you visit your local council’s website, they should have information about any Public Spaces Protection Orders in place, as well as details of any planned future PSPOs. Many councils will impose blanket bans on entire districts, on any land that is open to the public. Your local council will usually have a map that shows the boundaries of the area covered. 

Under a Public Spaces Protection Order, local authorities can issue a fixed penalty fine of up to £80 to those who fail to clean up after their dog in public. If a person refuses to pay, the case could be taken to the local magistrates’ court, where the offender faces a fine of up to £1,000

What’s more, pleading ignorance and saying you were unaware your dog had fouled isn’t a valid excuse, according to the law. And neither is not having an appropriate bag with you, so don’t forget to grab some each time you head out for walkies!

Health risks of dog excrement

Dog mess can contain the eggs of a type of roundworm known as the Toxocara worm.  

Contact with contaminated soil or excrement can cause toxocariasis – an infection that can lead to breathing difficulties, seizures and even blindness. Children are most at risk, as they’re more likely to come into contact with soil, sand or grassy areas.

Responsible dog owners can help reduce the risk of toxocariasis by cleaning up their dog’s mess immediately, and ensuring their dog is regularly wormed.

Bag it and bin it

If you walk your dog in a public place, make sure you take disposable bags with you. Most councils provide dedicated dog bins so you can easily dispose of the bag. If there isn’t a dog bin around, double bag it and put it in a normal litter bin.

Some local councils offer free poop scoops to encourage dog owners to do the right thing. To see if they are available in your area, you can contact the animal warden unit at your council.

How to report a dog fouling problem

If you have information about someone who refuses to clean up after their dog, you can report it to your local council. If you’re not sure who to contact, enter your postcode on the Gov UK local services website and they’ll connect you to the relevant local council. They’ll be able to provide more information about how to report and what information you’ll need to provide. 

Also, if you know of a public place littered with dog mess, you can ask your local council to clean it. 

Cleaning up after your dog, regular worming treatments and keeping up to date with their booster vaccinations will ensure your pet, you and others are protected against harmful and infectious diseases.

Frequently asked questions

What information do I need to provide when I report dog fouling?

Your local council will be able to provide more information about how to report dog fouling in your area and what information you’ll need to provide. They’ll normally want to know details such as where and when the fouling is taking place, as well as a description of the dog and its owner. Local officers will need to witness a dog fouler in the act to issue a fixed penalty notice so the more details you can provide, the better their chances of catching the offender.

Are there any exceptions to the law on dog fouling in the UK?

that prevents them from cleaning it up, are not legally required to pick up their pooch’s poop. There are also exceptions for certain types of public land in England and Wales, including along highways with a speed limit of 50mph or more, land that is used for agriculture or woodlands, or land that is predominantly marshland, moorland or heath. 

If you are out in the countryside and your dog fouls, the Forestry Commission recommends that instead of using poop bags, which sometimes get left on the side of footpaths to be ‘picked up later’, dog walkers use a stick to move the poop into the undergrowth and out of sight.

What is the law on dog fouling in Scotland?

In Scotland, dog fouling in public spaces is covered by The Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003. If you do not clean up after your dog, you could be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £40 by the local authorities or police, which can be doubled if not paid promptly.

What can I do if a neighbour’s dog poops in my garden?

You can report it to your local council. They are not required to clean up the mess, unless it’s on an area of public land, like a grass verge or footpath, but they can send an animal warden around to investigate.

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