REVEALED: The Sheffield neighbourhoods worst blighted by dog mess

A poster in Parsonage Crescent, Walkley, warning dog owners they're being watched
A poster in Parsonage Crescent, Walkley, warning dog owners they're being watched
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Complaints about dog mess in Sheffield have nearly trebled over the last five years, during which just 10 fines have been issued to irresponsible pet owners.

The filthy issue prompted 1,398 gripes to Sheffield Council in the year to April 2017, compared with 515 in 2012/13.

A warning sign on a lamppost in Walkley

A warning sign on a lamppost in Walkley

The council last year issued 121 warning letters to the suspected culprits, who reportedly failed to clean up after their pooches.

But only two on-the-spot fines of £50 were issued to those caught in the act, a Freedom of Information request by The Star has revealed.

A breakdown of complaints by street showed the most gripes came from within the S6 postcode, specifically Walkley.

Sheffield Council received 131 complaints about dog mess last year from within the S6 postcode area, over 50 more than in S5 (covering areas including Firth Park, Parson Cross and Shiregreen) which was next in the table with 80.

Dog mess in South Road, Walkley

Dog mess in South Road, Walkley

Of course, it is impossible to say whether the problem is actually worse in the areas with most complaints or if people living there are just more wont to report the matter.

However, on a stroll through Walkley we found no shortage of either dog mess or Sheffielders disgusted by the nuisance.

In South Road, where you had to keep your eyes on the pavement to avoid coming a cropper, Peter Rhodes expressed his exasperation.

"This road's terrible for dog muck. It's a health hazard, especially for children, who can be blinded," he said.

Ruth Leigh, with her daughter Martha, says she is forever cleaning dog mess off the pram

Ruth Leigh, with her daughter Martha, says she is forever cleaning dog mess off the pram

"It really gets you down. I think the council could spray warning messages on the ground, like you see elsewhere, because at least that might make dog owners think."

Roger Anthonies, a retired plumber, aged 66, said: "We have a dog and we always clean up after it but you have to look where you're walking round here."

Parsonage Crescent, in Walkley, generated five complaints to the council last year - behind only Cadman Street, in Mosborough.

There was no dog mess in sight this week, but there were plenty of warning signs attached to lampposts and one infuriated householder had attached a poster to his railings with a pair of glaring eyes and the message 'we're watching you'.

Helen Neale says she is disgusted by dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets

Helen Neale says she is disgusted by dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets

Ruth Leigh, who was walking there with her children Edie, aged two, and Martha, one, said: "I'm forever cleaning dog mess off the pram. It's so bad Edie can memorise where poo is and where it used to be.

"I think most dog owners do clear up after their pets and there are probably only two or three who don't. There used to be more bins but there aren't many around here."

Despite the growing number of complaints, some people said dog mess was actually less of a problem than it used to be.

Amy Hope, of Walkley, recalled regularly coming home with dog mess on her shoes when she used to walk on Bolehills as a child.

"Compared to when I was growing up I don't think it's that bad, but maybe that's just relative," said the 31-year-old academic researcher.

"I guess there aren't that many dog poo bins outside of the parks. Having more of them might be beneficial."

Down in Upperthorpe, dog owner Helen Neale said she always picks up her dog's dirt and is disgusted by owners failing to do so.

"I think they're showing the same attitude as people who drop litter and don't pick it up - they think 'it's not my responsibility'," she said.

"People want to live in a community but that means working for a community as well as having the advantages. One of the things you do for your community is to keep it tidy."

Failing to clean up immediately after your dog in public is a crime and can land owners a £50 on-the-spot penalty or see them prosecuted and fined up to £1,000.

Pleading ignorance of your mutt's mess is no defence and parents are held responsible even when their children are looking after the dog.

Between 2012/13 and 2016/17, Sheffield Council received a total of 5,280 complaints about dog turds, with the annual tally growing steadily over that period.

It responded by issuing 489 letters to the those believed to be responsible, and putting up 562 signs reminding owners it is a crime not to clean up after their pets.

The council was unable to say how much it had spent removing dog mess from streets and parks across the city.

It is difficult to catch owners in the act but Barking & Dagenham Council in London piloted a scheme in 2016 to identify culprits by testing the DNA of dog poo It said earlir this year it planned to expand the trial.

A spokesman for Sheffield Council said: “We know that dog fouling is a concern for many people in Sheffield, and we continue to take action against the small minority of people who do allow their dogs to foul in our streets and parks.

"That’s why, in the last financial year, we sent out more than 120 letters to people reported by the public to have failed to pick up after their pets – which was almost double the number of such letters we sent the year before. We also targeted various hot-spot areas reported by residents.

"Although the number of fixed penalty notices issued has remained static for the last three years, this is simply because in order to issue such a notice, we need to witness the incident first-hand and in our experience most people do pick up when they see our staff. We are also unable to do any covert surveillance for dog fouling.

"It is good to see that more and more people are reporting incidents of dog fouling to us, and we would like to continue encouraging them to do so. Such reports enable us to build evidence and send warning letters to those responsible. This usually makes a difference but if it continues and where we have the evidence we can issue Fixed Penalty Notices or take court action.

"Meanwhile, we have temporary dog fouling signage that we use for short periods of time at hot-spot locations across the city. The signs aim to change behaviours amongst those individuals who irresponsibly allow their dogs to foul. We also do high-visibility campaigns in hotspots, talking to local dog walkers and other residents and we receive good feedback form customers on those.

“As of September 2017, we will also be working proactively with schools to ensure children are fully engaged with all current environmental issues, including dog fouling."

DOG MESS COMPLAINTS BY YEAR IN SHEFFIELD
Year//complaints//letters issued//signs posted//fines
2012/13 515 121 171 3
2013/14 952 96 158 1
2014/15 1,259 83 90 2
2015/16 1,156 68 83 2
2016/17 1,398 121 61 2

Complaints by postcode (where available) in 2016/17

S1 2
S2 35
S3 1
S4 16
S5 80
S6 131
S7 7
S8 46
S9 33
S10 46
S11 23
S12 73
S13 47
S14 10
S17 17
S20 47
S35 63
S36 19