A new initiative has been launched in Northumberland to stop residents and visitors falling foul of their most loyal friends.
Northumberland County Council is introducing the Green Dog Walkers scheme, a community-led programme to reduce dog fouling and promote responsible dog ownership across the county.
The campaign seeks to promote Northumberland as a welcoming place for responsible dog walkers but to emphasise that Northumberland is also not a place that tolerates irresponsible dog owners, whether they are residents or visitors.
Coun Jeff Watson, chairman of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership, said: “Dog walking is one of the most popular activities on our beaches and we are urging dog owners to be responsible when walking their dog at the coast by always picking up after their dog and being mindful of other beach users, especially young children.”
Dog walkers are now being encouraged to join the scheme by signing the Green Dog Walker pledge. Those signing up agree to clean up after their dog always and put the bag in a bin and to use a friendly approach to encourage other dog walkers to do the same. An online pledge form can be found at www.northumberland.gov.uk/greendogwalkers
The council will also provide a support kit to local community groups and individuals who want to get involved. Green dog walkers will be sent a green armband to wear when walking their dog to help draw attention to the scheme. They will also be sent green doggy bags and pledge leaflets. The council also wants to raise awareness of the need for dogs to be kept under control at all times in public spaces. This includes out in the open countryside to avoid worrying farm animals and disturbing wildlife.
“At this time of year the dunes and coastal grasslands are important areas for a variety of ground-nesting birds so we would appeal to dog walkers to keep their dog on a lead when walking through these areas so the birds are not disturbed. Where you come across livestock, please also put your dog on a lead,” said Coun Watson.
The Northumberland coastline has been recognised as one of the finest landscapes in Europe and has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Much of the coast is also designated as a Special Protection Area for birds.
Volunteers taking part in the new Coast Care initiative, helping to care for and nurture this exceptional landscape, are working in partnership with Northumberland County Council to support the Green Dog Walker Scheme. Coastal volunteers will be wearing the Green Dog Walker armband that identifies them as supporters and will be handing out free poop bags to dog walkers encouraging them to take the green dog walker pledge.
Animal Welfare Officers from the Council’s Public Health Protection Unit will be supporting the volunteers. Green Dog Walking is intended to be a friendly and non-confrontational approach to changing attitudes to the problem of dog fouling. It will complement other existing council approaches being delivered across the county including issuing fines when irresponsible dog owners are caught allowing their dogs to foul without picking up after them and also through educational initiatives promoting responsible dog ownership.
Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for the environment and local services said: “Failing to clean up after your dog is unacceptable. Dog fouling is one of our top environmental priorities and one of the issues most commonly raised with us by residents. Not only is it unpleasant but dog dirt can carry serious diseases which can cause blindness and liver disorders, and children are the most susceptible.
“The council’s dog wardens work hard to educate the public on responsible dog ownership and our commitment to effective enforcement will continue as before with patrols in problem areas across Northumberland. “Green Dog Walkers will have the power to add to their efforts and change attitudes about dog fouling in Northumberland in a positive and friendly way.”