Councillors have approved a pilot scheme to tackle dog fouling which will see the local authority join forces with a private contractor.
The latest bid in the fouling battle is believed to be unique in Scotland.
Under the scheme – which will operate initially for one year – Scottish Borders Council will link-up with a contractor who will appoint two enforcement officers.
Those officers will be empowered to issue fines to people who don’t clean up after their pets – they can also fine litter louts.
Those who don’t pay could end up in court.
Meanwhile, the council will launch a series of initiatives to promote responsible dog ownership.
Enforcement officers are due in post on April 1, when the penalty for dog fouling rises to £8o – the same as for dropping litter.
The scheme has been welcommed by Councillor Davie Paterson, the authority’s environment portfolio holder.
He commented: “I am delighted councillors have supported this new strategy to promote responsible dog ownership and tackle dog fouling.
“We are aware that animal nuisance, such as noise and dog fouling, is an issue of major concern in the Borders and as a result this strategy has been put together to attempt to tackle the problem through education and enforcement.
“Dog fouling is a disgusting health hazard and the public will be encouraged to get involved and support this new approach.
“With enforcement officers soon in place, those who let their dog foul or litter should be aware they risk being fined £80 or even ending up in court.
“The strategy is also timely in terms of the microchipping of dogs, which becomes compulsory from April 6.”
Fellow Hawick councillors Stuart Marshall and Watson McAteer have also welcomed the scheme, which is being seen as a fresh approach to the canine problem.
In a joint statement they said: “We are very pleased to finally see a new strategy being launched with enforcement as a central feature, clearly recognising that the demise of our wardens in 2014 had left a serious gap.
“We hope the strategy is a success with fouling greatly reduced and effective action taken against those who persist in allowing their dogs to blight our streets.”
A report by Jenni Craig, the local authority’s neighbourhood services director, said the cost of using a private contractor to carry out the pilot enforcement would be met from “the income from fixed penalties and existing budgets”.
She also pointed out that providing an enforcement service for dog fouling alone “would not be financially viable for any private contractor, and because of this, littering, including fly-tipping, will also be tackled in the pilot”.
The local authority previously employed nine dog wardens who were responsible for ticketing law-breaking dog owners. They were scrapped two years ago and although 900 complaints have been received from Borderers in that time frame, no one has been issued with a ticket, despite the local authority still having the powers to do so.
Mr Paterson said: “During extensive research carried out by council officers, it become clear that in order for dog fouling to be tackled properly, a strategy around the wider issue of dog ownership is needed.
“Like many councillors, I know dog fouling is a major concern for members of the public.”
Mrs Craig’s report also says that to support the robust approach to tackling dog fouling and littering offences, the council will refer cases to the procurator fiscal for prosecution, and that the fiscal has agreed he would support the council in tackling these issues.
editorial, page 16