Some dog owners are being accused of putting the health of people at risk by allowing their pets to foul football pitches.
There has been growing concern about the problem at Ivybridge Town FC, where players are being put at risk, according to the club’s manager Brian Howard, who added: “We have no objection to the dogs being there, but it’s the increase in people letting their dogs foul.”
He said most dog walkers pick up after their dogs, but there are a number who do not.
There are 14 teams comprising 300 youngsters who play football there aged from seven up.
Dogs normally have to be kept on leashes during the times football is being played, between midday and 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and every night of the week, except for Sundays during the school holidays.
Mr Howard said it seems as if the fouling is happening at night, when people might also have more than one dog with them – sometimes as many as four.
With evenings now drawing in, dog owners are being encouraged to carry a torch so they can clear up after their animals.
Cllr George Beable, of Ugborough Parish Council, which rents the pitches to the club, said: ”The parish council continues to be disappointed that a small number of dog owners are allowing their dogs to foul the Erme Valley playing fields without picking up after them.
“Not only is it extremely unpleasant to step in dog mess, but it can also lead to serious illness and blindness to a young person coming into contact with it.
“There are a number of poo bins around the area, so there’s absolutely no reason to leave it on the fields.”
Mr Howard has also looked into asking if dogs could be on leads permanently to make it easier for dog owners to clean up after their pets.
Although the area and the Erme Valley Trail, which runs along two sides of the playing fields, lie in Ugborough parish, the playing fields belong to South Hams District Council.
Cllr Beable said: “Members of staff of the district council do frequently patrol the area, but only during working hours, and it seems that the offences occur early or late evening.
“We’re considering the possibility that the footpath by the river could be fenced off from the playing field and that dogs and their owners could be excluded entirely from the playing pitch area.”
Cllr Rufus Gilbert, executive portfolio holder for commercial services at SHDC, said: “Following the introduction of the Public Space Protection Orders, dog fouling is now dealt with under antisocial behaviour laws.
“This means our operatives can issue an on-the-spot fine of £100 for anyone who fails to clean up after their dog. This can rise to £1,000 if taken to court.
“In the coming months, our officers will be increasing patrols, and if we catch you allowing your dog to foul and not clearing up after it, we’ll fine you.”
A fixed-penalty fine can also be issued if evidence of the date, time and the identity of an offender is given.
Cllr Gilbert added: ”If a member of the public observes anyone not clearing up after their dog, and they have evidence and their details, please send it to us.”
Tom Holway, district councillor for Ermington and Ugborough, said: “I can’t believe there are people in our community who don’t care about our youngsters getting smothered in dog excrement and running the risk of blindness because they won’t clear up after their dogs.
“The vast majority of dog owners do clear up after their dogs, but if we have to ban dogs altogether to protect our young people, then the good dog owners will also suffer.
“I do hope the good owners will tell us who the culprits are so we can take action.
“People may not be letting their dogs mess deliberately, but they do need to keep an eye on their dogs all the time and not let them off the lead to go too far so they can see what they’re doing, or have them on very long leads while they’re preoccupied with a phone call and not watching their dog’s every movement.”
Cllr Howard said: “At the end of the day, I wouldn’t like to see children becoming seriously unwell through contracting a disease from dog waste. It’s becoming progressively worse.”
The district council’s website says dog excrement is known to carry the
toxocara parasite, which can cause blindness in children. The faeces may also cause E. coli, so dog fouling is a serious health hazard to all humans.