REWARDS of £50 are being offered to ‘dog detectives’ who catch irresponsible owners not clearing up their pet’s mess.

Hyndburn Council is the first in the North West to launch the radical scheme, which will see residents ‘paid’ for helping catch those who let their dogs foul in public.

Amateur sleuths have been asked to take pictures of the guilty parties, before getting their address and reporting them to the council.

The move comes after the number of fixed penalty notices issued to pet owners in Hyndburn dwindled in recent years. In 2006, 39 people were handed £75 fines, compared to just eight last year, despite 269 complaints from residents.

Labour council leader Miles Parkinson said: “We take a proactive approach to dog fouling, but we can’t have a dog warden on every street corner.

“We are now looking to make payments to residents who inform us of dog owners who allow their dogs to foul footpaths, and other places.”

Hyndburn Council’s scheme follows in the footsteps of Stafford Council, which promised a £75 reward for reporting dog fouling in December. Waltham Forest Council, in London, and Narberth, in Pembrokeshire, Wales, also launched similar schemes.

Opposition leader, Coun Peter Britcliffe, questioned the timing of the scheme’s introduction.

He said: “You do sometimes wonder if these actions are designed as election propaganda. They are trying to cover up their appalling record of dealing with the problem.”

To qualify for the reward, residents must take a picture of a dog fouling, another of it leaving the site with its owner, and a third of the muck once they’ve left.

The photos must be sent to the council, along with the person’s address, and the informant has to agree to give a statement, and appear in court if necessary. Then, £50 of the perpetrator’s fine goes to the person who rep-orted them.

Cabinet member for environmental services, Coun Paul Cox, said: “This latest campaign is about getting the message through to the minority of irresponsible dog owners, who don’t clean up after their dogs that we are on the case.”

Last year, 100 extra dog bins were sited around Hyndburn, and free bags for owners are available from Scaitcliffe House, in Ormerod Street, Accrington, and the Willow Lane depot. PCSOs have also been drafted in to try and tackle the issue.