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Dog fouling and UK law

Mehdi Punjwani
Written by  Mehdi Punjwani
Alicia Hempsted
Reviewed by  Alicia Hempsted
5 min read
Updated: 22 Apr 2024

Stepping in a dog's mess can ruin your day. As well as being unhygienic and repulsive, it’s also a public health and safety risk - and if you don’t clean up your dog’s waste you could face a fine. Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about dog fouling and UK law.

UK dog fouling laws 

Stepping in dog mess is an unacceptable inconvenience, and according to Keep Britain Tidy - a government campaign to ensure Britain’s spaces stay clean - over 1,000 tonnes is produced every day in the UK. Based on the campaign’s research, dog fouling is the biggest concern for the UK public, so it’s no surprise that it’s legally required for dog owners in the UK to clean up after their pets. 

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What is the fine for not cleaning up dog mess? 

If you don’t clean up after your dog in a public place in England and Wales, you could receive a fixed penalty notice (FPN) of up to £100 on the spot, with amounts determined by your local council.

This could escalate to a magistrates’ court hearing and a fine of up to £1,000 if you don’t pay.

You won’t be offered a pass if you say you didn’t know, and not having any bags is not an acceptable excuse either, so make sure you have some with you when you leave your home. 

Dog fouling laws in Scotland 

Similar laws apply in Scotland, where the Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act of 2003 ensures that if you don’t clean up your dog’s mess in a public space you could be issued with fixed penalty notice (FPN) of £80. This fine can go up to £100 if you don't pay it within 28 days. 

Where is it required by law to clean up dog mess? 

Dog fouling in public is covered in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act of 2014 for England and Wales - and areas protected by a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) will be decided by your local council. Places covered by the Public Space Protection Order usually include:  

  • Parks, playing fields, and playgrounds 

  • Town centres, shopping centres and car parks 

  • Footpaths, pavements and roads 

It’s worth noting that councils can and sometimes do implement district-wide bans on dog fouling. You can find out more and see maps on your local council website.  

What are the health risks of dog mess? 

As well as being generally unpleasant, dog excrement can present the very serious risk of toxocariasis - an infection caused by the eggs of the Toxocara worm. Symptoms include breathing issues, seizures, and blindness, with children being more susceptible due to the increased likelihood of them playing in areas with contaminated mud or grass.  

This is why it’s so important to act as a responsible dog owner. This means cleaning up dog mess immediately, getting your dog wormed regularly as well as keeping up with its vaccinations. This ensures safety for you and your dog as well as the public in general. 

How to dispose of dog mess

The easiest and most convenient way to clean up your dog’s waste is to use disposable bin bags: 

  1. Scoop up the mess with a disposable bag 

  2. Dispose of the bag in a dedicated dog bin 

  3. If you have to throw it into a normal bin, remember to use two bags. 

You might be able to get a free poop scoop from your local council - it’s worth contacting them to find out.  

What should I do about a dog mess issue? 

If you have an issue with public places being repeatedly soiled or someone who does not clean up after their dog, you can report it to the local council. You’ll need to provide details about the event, such as when and where it occurred and a description of the dog and owner if possible.  

You can use the UK government’s local services website to find your relevant local council if you aren’t sure who to report the incident to. 

If you have an issue with a neighbour’s dog leaving mess in your garden or on your property and the owner will not take responsibility after you ask them, you do have the option of reporting it to your local council. While they won’t be legally required to pick it up as it isn’t public land, they can send someone around to look into it. 

Exceptions to dog fouling laws 

Remember, some owners are exempt from cleaning up due to their disability. Additionally, some public areas of the UK are also exempt from this law, such as: 

  • Agricultural land 

  • Woodland, marshland, moorland or heath 

  • Highways with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour or more 

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