A concerned parent wants dogs banned from sports pitches in Cardiff after his seven-year-old child was covered in dog mess during a rugby training session.
Whitchurch minis and juniors chairman Darren Donovan said the field had already been checked for mess prior to the session at Hailey Park but was clearly missed.
He explained that dog fouling is an ongoing issue across all grassroots sports in Wales at the moment, which some councils like Caerphilly have reacted to by banning dogs from marked sports pitches in the interest of player safety.
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"We obviously check the pitches before we start any games," Darren told WalesOnline. "One of the main things we've got to have in our kit bag is dog poo bags, because owners are not picking up after themselves.
"We've had quite a few incidents with kids ending up with dog mess on them. The one last night was my seven-year-old. We had to throw his socks out, his shoes have had to go through the wash.
"There were three other under-10s who had it on their boots. One parent messaged me last night and said they could smell something when they got in the car and didn't realise it was on his boots."
Darren went on to explain that his wife had spotted 10 dogs across the two rugby fields prior to the training session.
"I know some councils have reacted to it," he said. "Caerphilly Council, specifically, have done a really good thing. On their website the pitches are marked out red, there are no dogs allowed on those pitches.
"I believe there's 12 councils in Wales that have stopped dogs accessing or being allowed on lined sports pitches during the season.
"It needs to be a habit. If you walk your dog, keep it on a lead or take it to a field where it's not used for sports. You don't want kids ending up like this. I've heard stories of kids who have been traumatised and quit the sport because they've got covered in dog mess. Something's got to change."
Darren has set up a petition calling on Cardiff council to ban dogs from lined pitches during sports seasons. It has been signed by more than 200 people and can be found here.
The concerned parent says he has personally confronted dog owners who have not cleaned up after their dog himself. "I've told them to pick it up, and they're like 'oh, that's not my dog' and I'm like, 'I've just watched you!' I've got six and seven-year-olds coming to play rugby, to play a sport, and we don't want to push them away from that.
"There needs to be another step or something else put in place by councils and as high as the Senedd to say that sports pitches are for sport, not for dog walking, to protect players and to protect people in Wales."
Other than being extremely unpleasant, coming into contact with dog mess can have serious health consequences. Former rugby player Darryl Adams previously spoke of his life-changing injuries after his shin was stamped on with rugby boot studs which were covered in dog mess. The studs cut the skin on his leg and the dog mess caused a cellulitis infection which he has been in and out of hospital with. You can read his story here.
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