New dog scheme is walking into a mess

Dog Waste bin in Loanhead.
Dog Waste bin in Loanhead.

The issue of dog fouling was back on the agenda last week as councillors last week debated regulating professional dog walkers in the area.

The cabinet meeting at Midlothian House was asked to endorse a voluntary registration scheme for professional dog walkers in Midlothian.

Councillors were told that an increasing number of professional dog walkers were using parks and other open spaces in Midlothian to walk dogs on a commercial basis, causing increasing concerns for the safety of the dogs and other land users. Once registered in the proposed scheme, the company’s information would be placed on the council’s website to demonstrate that it complied with the code of conduct for registration as a professional dog walker in Midlothian.

Cllr Russell Imrie (Lab) said: “In principle I probably don’t have a lot of problems with this but I’m actually going to move a continuation on the report. Dog fouling is never off the top three on everybody’s agenda. We have made certain strides on it but never been able to get to the stage where the penalty has met the crime so to speak.

“I do think this could bring along a problematic effect. The public could say you are advertising a voluntary registration scheme, we have seen so and so with dogs fouling, what are you doing about it?

“If we don’t have the staff available we just get laughed at. It’s just another introduction of a scheme we are not backing up.

“I would like a wider debate and discussion about dog fouling in general.”

Cllr John Hackett (Lab) said: “My concern is how do we manage this, compliance etc, the costs to the council, what are we looking to do here, will there be new inspectors employed? I agree with Cllr Imrie, I would like to see that in a wider look at how we tackle dog fouling in the county.”

According to the report before councillors some dog walkers and members of the public feel intimidated by large numbers of dogs being walked. It is understood that some private dog walkers now actively avoid areas frequented by professional dog walkers. Concerns have been raised by the National Union of Farmers regarding an increased number of sheep worrying cases, allegedly linked in some cases to commercial dog walkers.

Midlothian Council leader Derek Milligan (Lab) added: “Just recently we have seen out of control dogs highlighted, at Penicuik on Parade in particular. So maybe it’s best to bring back a full report.”