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New research reveals alarming impact of dog fouling on grassroots rugby with 86% of clubs affected

Dog walker outside green open spaces

- Admiral Pet Insurance is encouraging dog owners to act responsibly and scoop the poop, as new research reveals the disruption dog poo causes communities and sports teams -

  • One in five dog owners aren’t picking up their dog’s mess every single time (20%)
  • Admiral has partnered with Dog Behaviourist, Leon Towers to help educate the public on the health risks posed by dog poo, as 54% of parents admit they don’t understand the dangers of dog poo on their children's health
  • Rugby clubs face extreme solutions to tackle the problem of dog fouling, including investing tens of thousands of pounds in fencing and replacing padlocks cut off by angle grinders
  • Four in five (83%) grassroots rugby clubs are forced to remove dog mess before or during playing or training, research with the Welsh Rugby Union reveals, as Admiral calls on dog owners to be more considerate
  • International rugby player for Wales and dog owner, Natalia John, highlights the impact that dog fouling has on grassroots sports, and how it's preventing a quarter of parents from letting their children play sports outside

Joint research from Admiral Pet Insurance and the Welsh Rugby Union has revealed that dog fouling is a major issue for teams and a potential barrier for prospective players.

Six out of seven (86%) grassroots rugby clubs in Wales identified dog fouling as a problem for their club. The majority (83%) are forced to remove dog mess before or during playing or training, with over one-quarter having to do so every time the team plays or trains (29%).

Welsh Rugby Union, and dog owner, Natalia John warns of the impact that dog fouling has on grassroots sports: “Rugby is so special to me, and it has had such a positive impact on my life. In my early years of playing, I experienced a match being postponed due to dog fouling on the pitch and I can see why it is having a big impact on my sport.

“Now more than ever, we need to protect the clubs in the community by saving them the time and resources they would use for preventing or picking up dog poo. I always make sure that I’ve got enough dog poo bags when I’m walking my Weimaraner, Ned, and although it’s not pleasant job, it’s an easy one.”

Nearly three in five clubs (58%) have taken specific measures to prevent dogs from fouling on their pitch or playing field, and many more clubs are considering doing so (17%). One rugby club spent an eyewatering £35,000 erecting fences around two pitches to stop the issue of dog fouling from impacting its matches.

Another council-owned ground has had to deal with the messy consequences of dog fouling every time the team trains or plays, despite putting up signs saying no dog fouling. When the notices weren’t adhered to and team members approached those who were seen not picking up after their dog, they were met with hostility.

At a separate ground, a club attempted to stop unauthorised access and dog fouling by putting padlocks on the gates to its pitches, but the security measures were cut off by angle grinders.

Grassroots clubs aren’t just putting in physical barriers to reduce the impact of dog poo. One Wales-based club went one step further and successfully achieved a council protection order for its playing field.

Geraint John, WRU Community Director, says “We’re a nation of dog lovers! And it is such a huge disappointment to see the devastating impact dog fouling is having on our game and the health risk it poses to players and people in the community of all ages who benefit from our green spaces. 

“Unfortunately, it’s not a new problem, but the research we (WRU) have undertaken with Admiral proves there is still much work to be done to re-educate and increase awareness on the dangers of dog fouling, and to reaffirm the responsibility of dog owners to ‘scoop the poop’, and clean up after their pet so everyone can continue to enjoy the facilities a rugby club provides to the communities they serve safely.”

Public opinion over dog fouling shows education and action is required

When looking at the habits of dog walkers, consumer research commissioned by Admiral identified that a staggering one in five dog owners aren’t picking up their dog’s mess every single time (20%).

While nearly three-quarters of people agree that not picking up dog mess is antisocial (73%), only 8% of people have asked a dog owner to pick up their dog’s mess when they’ve failed to do so. Although more than half (54%) would consider it, depending on the situation. But over one quarter would not, as they’d be worried about the owner’s reaction (27%).

Top reasons dog owners provided for not disposing of their dog poo properly:

Find it unpleasant (26%)

Don’t always carry a bag (22%)

Don’t always want to carry the mess (22%)


Parents worry about their children playing outside and using sporting facilities

Concerningly, most parents (54%) don’t understand the dangers of dog poo on their children's health. Whilst rare, contact with dog poo can cause toxocariasis, an infection caused by small worms in dog poo. This is despite nearly nine in ten (87%) admitting to having trodden in dog mess, and over one-third of parents (36%) saying they had to clean dog poo off their children’s clothing.

Nearly a quarter of parents (23%) don’t want their children to play sports outside if they see a dog fouling on their sports field, which comes as 70% aren’t confident knowing how to clean dog poo safely off their child if they needed to.

It’s not just parents who are concerned about the impact of dog poo on their community. 14% of people have had to pick up another person’s dog mess in their neighbourhood. When asked if owners should be forbidden from walking their dogs on sports fields, a massive 45% agreed, while two thirds (65%) think local councils should be stricter in issuing fines to people who don’t pick up their dog’s mess.

Dog Behaviourist, Leon Towers said: “All pet owners must take full responsibility to pick up their dog’s poo. All animal faeces contain bacteria that can cause an upset stomach, but dog fouling is crucially harmful to other animals and people and pollutes local environments.

“If you come into contact with dog poo, you must wash your hands and any clothing with warm, soapy water. If it comes into contact with any cuts, your eyes or is ingested, make an urgent GP appointment, or call 111.”

Leon also shares his tips and advice on how Brits can work together to stamp out the issue of dog fouling:

  1. Poo Bags: Keep a stash of poo bags in ALL your outdoor clothing or anything you specifically wear when dog-walking, so that you are never caught off guard.
  2. Pay attention: When you are out and about walking your dog, it is your responsibility to be aware of when and where your dog is going to the toilet.
  3. Keep your dog on a lead until they have done their daily poo! As a dog owner, you should already have an awareness of your dog's bowel movements. If you don’t, then you risk not knowing if your dog is seriously ill with loose stools or constipation.
  4. Ask for help: If you do forget your dog poo bags, then speak up and shout out for the help of passers-by or other dog walkers! I would ALWAYS do my best to help a person who is at least trying to avoid causing harm to others, particularly when it’s as simple as providing a dog poo bag when they’ve been caught short, and we should ALL have that attitude.
  5. Above all else, SEE IT, BAG IT, BIN IT!

Admiral has created a hub to help consumers learn how to report dog fouling and understand its impact and consequences:

Prit Powar, Head of Pet at Admiral Insurance said: “The majority of dog owners are responsible and do clean up after their pet, however, there’s still a few that don’t, and unfortunately, as we’ve seen, this can cause significant problems if left on playing fields, parks or pavements.

“By making sure you pick up after your pet, carrying extra bags for fellow dog walkers and reporting dog fouling to your local council, we can all do our bit to make sure our public spaces are a more pleasant and safe environment for everyone to enjoy.”