Demand for Leeds dog tax

Pet owners in Leeds could be taxed to help foot the bill for cleaning up the city's dog mess "epidemic".

A councillor is pressing for the re-introduction of dog licences with the money raised paying for street cleansing and a concerted crackdown on irresponsible owners.

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At present Leeds has just five dog wardens for the whole of the city – which is home to some 715,000 people and an estimated 92,000 dogs.

Coun Robert Finnigan wants to raise a 10 levy on each canine and pump the money – a potential 920,000 a year – into boosting warden numbers.

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He said: "I get at least one complaint a week about dog fouling. It is getting to be an epidemic.

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"It's come to the fore again recently because of the snow we have had. It's melted away revealing a lot of mess.

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"I know some people will be critical of reintroducing a dog licence but it is a fact that a substantial number of dog owners do not clean up after their dogs.

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"The council's service is stretched and needs additional financial help and this seems a fair way of raising those funds.

"As a dog owner myself I think it is reasonable to pay a licence that works out at less than 20p a week to contribute towards cleaner streets and better enforcement."

Coun Finnigan, who has a poodle, Toby, said, to administrate the scheme, a computer system would need to be set up for dog owners and their pets, possibly linked to the existing pet microchip database.

Animals caught fouling could be identified and those without a licence would be confiscated and held until their owners paid up.

Coun Finnigan, who sits on Leeds City Council's powerful executive board, also wants to see places like children's play areas and sports fields designated "dog free zones".

Anyone caught even walking their dog there could be fined.

Coun Finnigan (MBI, Morley North) said: "Presently enforcement officers can only take action if they witness a dog fouling in an area and the mess is not cleared up.

"The designating of a dog free zone will mean they can issue a penalty notice if a dog is within the perimeter of a designated zone which prevents any potential for dog fouling."

Coun Finnigan will raise the issue of reintroducing an annually-renewed dog licence at the next full council meeting in April.

Dog licences were abolished in the UK in 1987 when they cost 37p. At the time it was thought the administration costs outweighed the benefits.

The licences were replaced with new dog control measures contained in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Michael Barrington, of Roundhay, and Megan Bruce, of Robin Hood, at Leeds's Thought Bubble comic art festival.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Leeds’s Thought Bubble festival!