PARKS and pavements across Oxford are under siege by dog mess.
Complaints to Oxford City Council about dog waste in the city increased by 67 per cent last year.
In 2014 the council received 1,397 complaints about dog mess not cleared by owners, in comparison to 833 complaints in 2013.
But only two people were handed fines last year, in comparison to 15 the previous year.
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And from January to April, not a single person has been fined for not clearing dog mess despite 459 complaints being lodged with the council.
The problem has got so bad city council officers are considering new methods to crackdown on serial offenders.
These include using CCTV to catch them in the act, encouraging the public to report individuals who don’t clean up after their pets, and even using DNA tests on the waste to identify culprits.
According to the council, the worst affected area is Barton, where Diane Morey, 64, walks her two dogs in Boundary Brook daily.
She said that she was “not surprised” that Barton was one of the most blighted by mess.
Mrs Morey, who has lived in the area for more than 40 years, said: “I always pick up my dog mess, and I sometimes pick up other people’s.
“There’s plenty of the stuff about.
“If it wasn’t cleaned we’d be knee-high in the stuff.”
Oxford city councillor and board member for Cleaner Greener Oxford, John Tanner, said: “I think it is quite shocking that there are still a number of irresponsible dog owners who refuse to clean up after their pets.
“If one of our officers asks an owner to clean up after their dog, and nine out of 10 times they do, they can’t fine them. The issue is when our officers aren’t there policing the parks.
“There’s nothing more disgusting than getting dog mess on the sole of your shoe or caught in the pram wheels.
“We’re going to keep campaigning for dog owners to clean up after themselves.”
According to Mr Tanner, Oxford City Council may consider creating a DNA database of dog mess to identify habitual offenders.
Last month, Barking and Dagenham Council became the first local authority to begin registering its 18,000 dogs on such a database.
It is hoped that in a number of years’ time, culprits can be identified by testing the dog mess not removed by owners.
He said: “It sounds expensive but we will look at anything because dog waste can be a real scourge to a number of areas in Oxford.”
The city councillor added: “We should explore using CCTV to identify offenders, also we do encourage members of the public to inform us of people who don’t pick up after their pets.”
To help tackle the issue, the city council has installed 170 dog mess-only litter bins on top of 350 litter bins which also take dog waste.
Last year, the council disposed of 50 tonnes of dog waste from the mess-only bins.
The council also has 20 wardens and park rangers who police green areas in the city and have the power to issue fines to dog owners.
Dog waste is considered a health hazard due to parasites that live inside a dog’s digestive system called roundworm.
Children are most vulnerable to the virus called toxocariasis, which can cause serious illness or blindness if left untreated.
During a visit to Hollow Way Recreation Ground in Cowley, the Oxford Mail found 27 pieces of dog waste that had not been cleared.
There were two bins at both entrances of the park.
Val Jackson, Oxford Dog Training Society instructor for 44 years, said she was “appalled” by the increasing complaints about dog mess.
The 72-year-old added: “I think it’s disgusting quite frankly.
“As a trainer, I explain to all members of the class the necessity to pick up after their dogs.
“I’m sure it must reflect badly on all dog owners and something does need to be done about it.”
Cleaning up dog waste cost Oxford City Council £27,940 last year.
So far this year, the council has spent £10,000 to deal with dog mess reported by residents, park users and pedestrians.
Owners who are caught not clearing dog mess are usually handed an on the spot fine of £80.
But last month (04/2015) Abingdon Road resident Martin McPherson-Pottle was taken to court for refusing to pay a fine, received in 2014.
As a result, he now has to pay a £300 fine and £1,500 in legal fees.