A chef from Kelso has embarked on a one-man crusade to rid the town of dog dirt.
Self-styled ‘poopa scoopa’ Gavin Starkey hits the streets with plastic bags and cleaning materials three times a week.
He has been amazed and dismayed at the amount of canine excrement he has encountered during his four hour clean-up sessions.
In just one 300-yard stretch of Jedburgh Road, he collected 47 bags’ worth of dirt left behind by irresponsible pet-owners.
He also picked up 27 bags’ worth around the town’s New Broomlands Primary School.
Gavin, 35, lays the blame for what he believes is a recent increase in dog dirt on irresponsible owners, some of whom bag dirt only to then discard it on the street or on grass rather than putting it in nearby bins.
He is now calling on the support of Borders MP John Lamont and MSP Rachael Hamilton and has also received a pledge of help from Kelso Community Council.
Gavin was inspired to embark on his clean-up mission after he accompanied his seven-year-old son Lucca to Broomlands Primary.
The unfortunate youngster stepped into some dog dirt, slipped and became covered in the mess.
He said: “That was the final straw for me. I’d noticed that the amount of mess had increased in the last few months as the result of these irresponsible dog owners, some of whom take the time to bag the dirt and then throw it into trees or the grass.
“There was so much outside the primary school, and it’s disgusting and very dangerous from a health viewpoint.
“That’s when I decided to act, and I use an AA route-finder to mark out where I will go.
“Lucca has been a big help. He doesn’t pick up the dirt but he is my little spotter. He finds the discarded bags, and I pick them up and use an antiseptic spray to clean the pavements.
“I’ve contacted John Lamont and Rachael Hamilton for their support, and I’ve also been in touch with the vet’s in Kelso to put posters up warning of the dangers of dog dirt.
“I want to get the message across, and I’m dedicating almost half the working week to this. That’s how passionate I feel about it.”
After consultations with Borders Pet Rescue this week, Gavin will from now on be accepting donations from the public to support his work when he is out and about in town. He has also set up a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/groups/593162087685250, to update fellow Kelso folk about his efforts.
A spokesperson for Kelso Community Council said: “It’s a sad state of affairs that Gavin feels he has to do this.
“We do have four community litter-picks a year and they too shouldn’t be needed.”
The community council is to look at the possibility of supplying Gavin with equipment and poo bags to allow him to continue his voluntary work.
Dog dirt is an issue which frequently tops the lists of complaints from the public to the region’s elected representatives.
Late last year, it was claimed that dog dirt beside Trinity Primary School in Hawick was endangering the health of pupils.
Deputy head Jamie Wilson said: “It really is unacceptable. I have been at the school for just over a year, and it has been a persistent problem throughout that time, but it seems to have got worse recently.
“We have a member of staff or adult helper leading the children to the baths and looking out for dog dirt, a problem that is particularly bad closest to the school.”
“The children are very good and are aware that they need to be careful. You would think that dog owners would realise they should always pick up after their pet, particularly so close to the school, but sadly that is not the case.”