Video: Reporter joins anti-dog mess wardens

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DOG mess is a bane of life for thousands across the Capital – but only two weeks after it began, evidence has emerged that our Dish the Dirt campaign is helping to clean up the streets.

Signs of early progress in the war against dog fouling came as the Evening News joined environmental wardens Fernando Munoz and Brenda Walter on one of their daily patrols in Moredun, south Edinburgh.

Moredun resident Shona Forres with her dog. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Moredun resident Shona Forres with her dog. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Call our hotline to report dog fouling: 0300 4563476

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Enviromental wardens Fernando Munoz and Brenda Walter. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Enviromental wardens Fernando Munoz and Brenda Walter. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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The neighbourhood is one of the worst hit in the city – roughly 40 per cent of all dog fouling complaints in south Edinburgh originate in its parks and streets.

But the pair have noticed that the Evening News’ joint campaign with the city council has already prompted more locals to pick up the phone and shop lazy pet owners.

City chiefs said 194 calls about dog mess had been received by their environmental teams since Dish the Dirt swung into action earlier this month.

And while the flood of complaints indicates the seriousness of the problem, Brenda and Fernando welcomed the calls as a mine of crucial witness information which they said would be key to any effective crackdown on offenders.

Fernando, 41, who has been based in the area as an environmental warden for four years, said: “The challenge is that we have to witness the offence taking place, which is easier said than done.

“Obviously, you need a dog and an owner, and the dog has to do a poo – which only takes seconds. The offence then takes place when the owner walks away from the mess.

“To issue a penalty, you need to be there when those two things are happening. But we can take independent action based on two witness statements.

“That’s why this campaign is so important – residents are our eyes on the ground. We rely so much on detail they provide to be able to take action against offenders.

“Anything that helps in that way, to encourage people to phone and give us detail, is really welcome.”

He added: “Everyone knows about the situation now – people are more aware of the problem and of what they have to do to get it fixed.”

And while complaints about dog dirt are still coming in thick and fast, Brenda and Fernando said signs of an improvement in the situation were emerging.

Brenda, 44, a warden for 11 years, said: “We can get about three or four complaints a week for this area, but since the campaign started, I’ve noticed a drop in the number, especially on the footpaths.

“Things are not as bad as they were previously. I would say there’s been a drop in complaints and in the amount of dog poo we’re seeing. So this campaign has already making a difference. But what I would say to people is – if you don’t want to pick up your dog’s mess, don’t get a dog.”

You might think the task of dealing with dog fouling offenders on a daily basis was bad enough – but for Fernando and Brenda, the job comes with a number of other “challenges”.

Although neither warden has been physically assaulted, they admitted taunts, jeering and even threats of violence were a regular occurrence.

“I’ve had people say to me, ‘I could take you down’ when I’ve had to issue a penalty,” said Fernando. “Or you get people passing you in their cars and shouting out that we should go and get a proper job.

“Sometimes we’ll be out doing joint patrols with the police and even then we’ll get abuse. But it’s just 
verbal.

“We don’t accept it but we don’t react too much and we know to change the way we speak to people if we think we’re in a risky situation.”

In Moredun, weary locals, fed-up with having to negotiate each trip to the shops as if they were walking on a minefield, said it was about time something was done to crack down on the Capital’s dog mess scourge.

Local resident William Gay, 66, said: “There are plenty of reasonable people – but there are a few folk who don’t pick up.

“Then there are folk who come to the field with their cars and let their dogs roam about. Then the dogs disappear and they leave their mess 
everywhere. If I go to the shops, I have to watch myself.

“I’m just annoyed at the amount of dirt. Some people aren’t cleaning up after their dogs but at the same time there are no bins in the area to put your stuff in. There’s one at the bottom of the park but nothing anywhere else.

“There are lots of responsible people as well but it’s the strangers who come in, use the park and then disappear that are the problem.”

Shona Forres, 25, a local resident and dog owner, said: “It’s really bad – it’s a mess, especially near the kids play area. Something needs to be done about it – you don’t want kids playing near that.

“I see it happen every time I’m walking home – there’s at least one person that won’t pick up the mess. I know some councils offer dog owners free doggy bags so maybe that would be a good thing.”

Mum of four Nse Igoniderighe, 40, who is studying for a PhD in computing, said: “It’s really bad and they really need to do something about it.

“When I take the kids to school, you encounter lots of dog owners who have let their dogs off the lead so they’re just walking around and 
leaving their mess everywhere.

“And I won’t allow my kids to play in that field by themselves – an adult has to be with them.”

David Henderson, 69, a stadium assistant at Easter Road, said: “It’s about time something was done about dog mess – it’s disgusting.

“My 12-year-old grandchildren are here every day after school and sometimes they would rather just play in the garden than in the field.

“I see quite a lot of people just looking out of their windows, letting their dogs run about and never picking up after them.

“When I’m out walking, I really have to keep my eyes open to see where I’m walking. I don’t think there are enough patrols or bins.”

Stuart Blyth, 60, landlord at The Royal pub in Moredun, said: “It’s a good thing that they’ve started this campaign. I’ve seen guys coming down with their dogs, which just leave their mess where they want.”

Guide to clean streets

There are no excuses for not cleaning up after your dog. Here the Dogs Trust offers a simple guide:

• Always carry something to clean up after your dog such as plastic bags or nappy sacks. These are cheaper and just as effective as the more cumbersome poop scoops.

• If you have a garden, train your dog to go to the toilet there before you go for a walk, then clean it up straight away.

• Never let your dog out alone to go to the loo.

• Remember, you don’t need to wait until you find a red dog waste bin, you can dispose of bagged dog mess in any public bin.

• Look out for signs and respect the city council rules on dog-free areas such as children’s play areas and sports pitches.

• Do not leave used bags hanging from branches or at the side of the path. Take them with you and dispose of them at your nearest bin.

• Bag it and bin it wherever your dog fouls, whether it’s on a path or in a gutter. Rain water will not wash it away and is a lazy excuse.

• Get your dog wormed regularly. Visit your veterinary surgery for advice on the products suitable for your pet and how often you will need them.

• Always wash your hands after a walk or petting your dog and before eating. While toxocara infections are very rare and are more likely to affect children, adults can become ill too.

How can you help?

• Call Buster on 0300 4563476 to Dish the Dirt on offenders. Basic details are fine but the more information that can be given in terms of times, location, vehicles used, descriptions of the dogs and/or owners responsible will help the council identify the culprits and take appropriate enforcement action.

• All reports will be treated as confidential but updates on action taken will only be possible if contact information is left in the message.

• Calls to 03 numbers cost no more than a standard national rate call to an 01 or 02 number and count towards any inclusive minutes on landline or mobiles.

• Help us promote the campaign by displaying a Dish the Dirt poster. To receive your free poster e-mail kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com.