Hints from the Health Department. Leaflet from the archive of the Society of Medical Officers of Health. Credit: Wellcome Collection, London
[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Kensington Borough]
of footways by dogs is a public health nuisance for which an
adequate remedy is hard to find.
While it has been shown that dogs can carry and excrete
germs capable of producing illness in man, it is seldom that
cases of human disease can positively be related to infections
originating from this source. Nevertheless, such instances
do occur and the potential risk cannot be ignored. Certainly
dog filth is an attraction to flies and blowflies, with
consequent possibilities of conveyance of infection.
The main objection, however, to the fouling of pavements
and grass verges by dog excreta is the nauseating revulsion,
embarrassment and distress caused by chance pollution of shoes,
clothing, mats and carpets, necessitating disgusting and timeconsuming
Many complaints from residents were received at the Public
Health Department and several letters on the subject had
appeared in the local press. Detailing sanitary inspectors
to watch for offenders proved unrewarding in view of the
expenditure of the time of officers who could be ill-spared
from more urgent duties, and the relatively few offenders who
could be caught as accessories before, during or after the act.
Even a survey of "dirty spots" and concentration of observation
thereon failed to secure the detection of offenders, the main
reason being that so many dog attendants take their charges out
under the cover of darkness, in the evening and early morning.
The more disinterested merely turn them out to evacuate
In these circumstances, it was decided to repeat an
anti-dog nuisance educational campaign which had been successful
some four years before.
Attempts were made to focus attention on the project by
means of posters, displayed on hoardings, Council vehicles and
other suitable sites, by cryptic advertisements in the Personal
columns of the local newspapers, and by handbills which were
widely distributed. The Press were most helpful and co-operative,
giving full accounts of the project and reinforcing the campaign
by most encouraging articles. The campaign was further
publicised by book-marks distributed with each volume borrowed
from the four public libraries.
The shop window displays were arranged in seventeen pet
shops by courtesy of the proprietors. They consisted of the
exhibition of posters, handbills and booklets on dog training
and prizes consisting of dog foods and dog requisites, which
were to be won by successful competitors in a Competition. This
Competition was a simple one, involving the placing of twelve
different breeds of dogs in order of popularity. Entry cards
were distributed from Council offices, pet shops and at
demonstrations. Prizes were supplied by the makers of proprietary
dog foods on a most generous scale, which permitted of worth-while
awards to thirty-four entrants. These firms also kindly supplied
exhibition material and gave most valuable advice and co-operation
in planning the campaign.
The local byelaw to deal with this nuisance provides that:-
"No person being in charge of a dog shall allow
the animal to foul the footway of any street or public
place by depositing its excrement thereon. For the
purpose of this byelaw the owner of the dog shall be
deemed to be in charge thereof, unless the Court is
satisfied that at the time when the dog fouled the
footway it had been placed in or taken into the charge
of some other person."