Ellon school clamp down on dog fouling

Head teacher Mrs McGowan and P7 teacher Mrs Will along with some of the pupils who submitted letters about the ongoing issue: Euan Currie, Lewis Allison and Amy Petrie
Head teacher Mrs McGowan and P7 teacher Mrs Will along with some of the pupils who submitted letters about the ongoing issue: Euan Currie, Lewis Allison and Amy Petrie

A Primary School in Ellon has called for dog walkers to pick up after their pets while walking through its playground.

Dog fouling around the grounds at Auchterellon School has been an ongoing problem for the staff and pupils over the years.

In a bid to resolve the issue P7 pupils created letters of complaint which they submitted to their teacher and Aberdeenshire Council.

As a result of dogs mess in the playground, certain outdoor spaces for learning have been stopped and numerous children have complained about stepping in dog mess which has been brought back into the school.

Head teacher, Morag McGowan, said that parents and those in surrounding areas have been regularly reminded to take care and pick up any dog mess through their newsletter.

Mrs McGowan told the Times: “There is nothing more distressing than having children come back in to the school with dog mess on their clothes or sometimes on them.

“There aren’t clear boundaries for the school and people walking their dogs often use it as a shortcut - but they are actually going through the play area.”

“We would like people to take care and make sure that the children’s play area and where the dogs are walked are in different areas.

In their letters the P7 pupils say they cannot ‘play in certain areas and some children are stepping into the dog mess which will be taken into the school’.

Mrs McGowan added that visible boundaries may help solve the problem but that is not something which could be carried out at this time.

She said: “If there was a clear boundary people might realise where they could walk their dogs. Realistically it might be a solution but it is not a solution for now.”

P7 teacher, Morag Will, said that the problem has been a recurring issue over the years.

Mrs Will said: “Sometimes it can prevent us from using certain parts of the playground. There are no fences but that is not the issue - we want to make people aware that there are children playing here.

“We use the outside space a lot - not just during break and lunch times - and we would like people to think about walking their dogs somewhere else or to pick up the mess.”

Suggestions to control the issue from the pupils have included putting up signs to ask people to pick up after their dog and be aware of the areas where they are letting their dogs go, for dogs to be kept on a lead, hire a dog warden to check for any mess and for more dog bins to be installed around the grounds.

Chair of Education, Learning and Leisure Committee, Councillor Isobel Davidson, said: “There is a problem that there is no clear division between the playground and the park but both areas should be clear of dog faeces because they are both play areas. I would also ask that people collecting children from school do not take their dogs on to school grounds.”

Councillor Rob Merson added: “I would urge dog-walkers to adopt a more socially responsible attitude in clearing up after their pets. Quite apart from the disgusting mess that it causes, there is a health risk of children picking up a toxocara canis parasite, which can cause blindness.

“Failing to clean up dog faeces is an offence for which owners can receive a £40 fine, and I trust that the higher likelihood of being reported and fined will act as a serious disincentive to such anti-social behaviour.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s head of protective services and waste management Ian Robertson added: “We welcome the letters from pupils at Auchterellon School which highlight the irresponsibility of some dog owners in not cleaning up after their pets.

“It beggars belief that people allow their dogs to foul on school playgrounds where children will be playing.

“We urge all dog owners to take responsibility for their pets by tidying up any mess made in public spaces and make use of the nearest available bin. There is no excuse for dog owners not to bag it and bin it.

“If you witness anyone not cleaning up after their dog, please contact the warden so they can investigate. We have now made it easier for people to complain about dog fouling through www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/animals/dogs/DogFouling.asp.

“We are also continuing our clean dog walkers initiative across Aberdeenshire. In the scheme dog walkers agree to clean up after their dogs and to promote the scheme with other dog owners and in return they are supplied with dog bags and tags. It is being promoted as a friendly way to change attitudes about dog fouling and I encourage people to get involved.”