Dog mess posters causing a big stink in Sandwell
Foul language and pictures of huge piles of dog mess are being used to tackle irresponsible dog owners with a poster launched and paid for by Sandwell Council.
The authority is using the phrase 'no s**t Sherlock', accompanied by an image of a dog in a deerstalker-hat sitting next to a pile of excrement.
The Express & Star has pixellated the image but it will be put up on posters all around the Black Country borough as part of a hard-hitting campaign.
The council is threatening dog walkers with £75 fines as part of a 'zero tolerance' approach to dog mess.
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Reaction has been mixed with some commentators on Twitter praising the council.
But Opposition Tory Councillor Mavis Hughes thought the language of the poster was going too far.
The Wednesbury North councillor said: "It's a swear word. Yes, they've censored it with asterisks but it's obvious what it is.
"There are children who will see this. I don't think we should be encouraging them to use foul language to describe dog mess."
The posters will be put up in parks, open spaces and dog mess 'hot spots'.
Another poster has an image of boys playing football with a pile of dog mess inside the word 'foul'.
Sandwell Council said it had almost 800 reports of dog mess last year, which has prompted it to crack down on irresponsible owners. Wardens have handed out 80 of the £75 fines in recent months, as well as thousands of dog mess bags to encourage people to be more courteous to other park users.
The council's Labour leader Councillor Darren Cooper said: "All the feedback we get from people in Sandwell shows that dog mess is a real concern. For many it's the number one priority problem they keep reporting to us.
"It's a public health hazard – especially for children and young people who play in our parks and open spaces. It looks horrible, it gets stuck on your shoes and it costs council taxpayers' money to clean up.
"As a dog owner myself, I'm fed up with the small minority of people who don't clean up after their pets. It's something that really annoys the vast majority of responsible dog owners as well as others who tread in it."
Asked about the language of the campaign and the image, he said: "We thought hard about it. It's risky, but would we be getting the coverage we are otherwise?"
The council – working with its waste contractor Serco – will also be drawing temporary stencils on the pavement in areas where there have been lots of complaints, to urge people to clean it up.
Councillor Cooper added: "We're fining and educating people – but people want us to do more. That's why we're taking such a strong and bold approach with this campaign. We want to get people talking about it.
"We need to get the message through to the small minority of irresponsible dog owners that the council and local residents are not prepared to put up with this any longer.
"This is the peak season for dog fouling complaints. And people will be starting to use our parks and open spaces more and more as we head towards the spring, so we want to makes sure these areas are safe and clean for them to enjoy.
"We're also thanking the vast majority of responsible dog owners who are doing their bit to keep Sandwell clean."
Councillor Cooper revealed the posters on Twitter today and reaction from those who saw it included one London-based person calling it 'brilliant' with another based in David Cameron's Oxfordshire constituency saying it should be introduced there as well.
West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson also 're-tweeted' the poster to his more than 138,000 followers.
However, dog owner Joanna Lawton, a nurse and mother from Rowley Regis, replied: "Perhaps before having zero tolerance you could put more dog mess bins out and about. Walking a mile with warm poo is not nice."
The council says that they should give specific details about the incident, including the time, date, location, description of the dog and the owner so that the mess can be cleaned up and those responsible can be tracked down.
People took to Twitter today to discuss the controversial poster campaign.
Hundreds of free dog mess bag holders are available to Sandwell residents on a first-come, first-served basis.
Dog owners have to fill in the online form at www.sandwell.gov.uk/dogbags or call 0121 569 6889 and leave a message on the answer phone.
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