SCOTLAND, UK - A dramatic pilot poster campaign urging dog walkers to clean up after their pets has more than halved the incidence of dog fouling on agricultural land.
The results of the work will help NFU Scotland’s efforts to have agricultural land incorporated into the Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003.
NFU Scotland, in partnership with Keep Scotland Beautiful, has concluded the pilot study carried out on farms which have had persistent problems with dog fouling. Four sites on agricultural land - two in the Pentlands, one in Dumbarton and the other in Motherwell - were monitored by NFU Scotland and Keep Scotland Beautiful over a six week period during September and October to assess the impact of high profile posters in the vicinity.
The results showed an overall decrease of 52.1 percent in the incidents of dog fouling recorded over the duration of the project, across all four sites.
Under the Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003, it is an offence for a person responsible for a dog to leave the dog dirt in a public open space, but the legislation currently excludes agricultural land. This exclusion of agricultural land has real implications for farmers and land managers who must deal with the impact of dog dirt on their land. As well affecting the quality and safety of crops, animal health is a major concern.
Neosporosis can result in miscarriage in cattle and sarcocystosis can be responsible for neurological disease and death in sheep. Dogs are important vectors in the lifecycle of both these dangerous parasites and owners picking up after their dog can help to reduce the risk of disease spreading.
NFU Scotland has, for some time, sought a change in legislation to include agricultural land in the dog fouling act. It will use the results of the pilot study to highlight how dog owners’ behaviour can be influenced by various intervention measures and that must be backed up by stronger legislation.
Previous research has suggested that some dog owners act irresponsibly when they think they are not being watched. This was the main focus of the campaign. Two striking posters with hard-hitting messages and featuring ‘glow in the dark’ eyes were used to assess whether dog owner behaviour can be influenced. The significant reduction in dog fouling recorded over a six week period merits a more extensive study of long term impacts from such poster campaigns.
The Union will be writing to the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs early in 2016 to inform him of the findings, and to push once again for a change in legislation.
This call for legislative change will also form part of NFU Scotland’s Scottish election manifesto, and it will be looking to political parties to consider adopting it within theirs.
NFU Scotland will also seek to roll out the poster campaign to farms nationally, with a view to assess the results at different times in the year.
Andrew McCornick, Vice President of NFU Scotland commented: “Clearly these results show that positive intervention does have an impact on human behaviour and adds strength to our view that changes to the law could significantly lower the disgraceful amount of dog fouling taking place on Scottish farmland.
“The exemption of agricultural land from the Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003 may give dog owners the impression that it is ok to allow your dog to do its’ business on agricultural land but in reality this is unacceptable.
“It undermines Scottish farmers’ efforts to produce quality food and keep their livestock healthy. There is no effective way for farmers to control these diseases other than trying to limit contamination of pasture and culling affected animals.
“NFU Scotland has worked with other stakeholders to try and highlight this issue and promote responsible behaviour, focussing on ‘hot spot’ areas. This work supports the findings of the survey showing such interventions can be successful in some areas but that they are unlikely to offer a long term effective solution on their own.
“We need effective education across the board in order to illicit a change behaviour and a change in the legislation is necessary to make the message clear that it is not ’ok’ to allow your dog to foul on agricultural land.
“I would encourage any members who continue to have problems with dog fouling on their land to get in touch with us to help us build a stronger case going forward.”
Derek Robertson, Chief Executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful said: “Evidence from national and local research shows that the impact of dog fouling is consistently one of the most important environmental issues to communities. A recent poll found that 47 per cent of people from across Scotland rated dog fouling as a ‘fairly bad problem’.
“Keep Scotland Beautiful recognises that precious time and resources are being spent by many organisations and land owners to tackle dog fouling. This is why we were delighted to work with NFU Scotland to trial new behaviour change posters at rural locations blighted by dog fouling. The pilot highlighted a significant decrease in the number of incidents recorded; which is to be welcomed.
“We need a louder, collective voice and more effective and efficient use of existing resources to tackle the issue in Scotland – as reflected in a recent report, Tackling Dog Fouling, published following the first National Stakeholder Event.”
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