Enforcement of dog fouling rules in the region has been labelled a shambles since a pilot scheme came to an end earlier this year.
A new strategy is desperately needed to address the problem as neighbourhoods across the Borders are becoming “soiled by dog mess”, according to Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall.
He believes the problem has now reached epidemic proportions following the withdrawal of the council’s nine-strong community warden service in 2013.
Last week’s full council meeting was told that a report on a pilot project launched in May last year to tackle dog fouling will be presented soon.
The one-year enforcement initiative saw Scottish Borders Council commission private firm GLS to issue £80 fines to offending dog owners.
The arrangement was aimed at plugging a gap which emerged after the warden service was withdrawn.
Council chiefs acknowledge there is a real problem to be addressed and have pledged to come up with a strategy to address it before the end of the year.
Mr Marshall said: “I really look forward to see what they come up with because the situation is a shambles. Our neighborhoods are absolutely soiled with mess. The pilot scheme ended in May, up to which point there was one warden covering the whole of the Borders. Now, as I understand it, there are no wardens at all.
“There just isn’t a strategy in place to tackle this and there was no enforcement of the tickets which were handed out. People given tickets just ignored them and there was no enforcement of the fine.
“Council officers have admitted in an email that enforcement had ‘not been as successful as anticipated’ and have promised to come back with a new strategy before the end of the year. I look forward to that.”
The issue of dog fouling – the number one source of complaint from members of the public to their ward councillors – was raised at the last full council meeting by Councillor Kris Chapman (Lib Dem, Tweeddale West).
“How much taxpayers’ money is being used to clean up after dog fouling?” he asked. “What action is being taken by this council to identify and prosecute the small number of irresponsible dog owners who regularly ignore the rules?
“In addition, what action is being taken by the council to better promote responsible dog ownership?”
He was told by Councillor Sandy Aitchison (Ind, Galashiels and District), executive member for neighbourhoods and localities, that the council’s street cleaning budget was currently £1.4m a year.
“Contained within this budget are the costs incurred for the cleaning of dog fouling,” he said. “The ledger does not separately record the costs associated with this activity.”
On the GLS contract, Mr Aitchison said: “A report on the pilot, including recommendations for next steps will be brought to the council in the near future.
“Elected members will understand that a balanced approach to the scourge of dog fouling is required, whereby individuals take personal responsibility for their actions, while enabling responsible dog owners, who are the vast majority, to support the council in its efforts.
“This approach, when harnessed with increased public awareness and improved access to facilities, are likely to be the building blocks of our approach to dog fouling in the future.”
Mr Chapman asked what role the council would take in extending the best practice deployed in other Borders towns. Specifically, he cited the success of Newtown and Eildon Community Council is organising a scheme which saw all dog owners in the area signing a pledge to stamp out dog fouling.
Mr Aitchison told him: “Consideration always needs to be given to how best we spend our budget and I am happy to meet with any community which wants to get involved.”