Undercover wardens are prowling dog fouling hotspots across Moray amid complaints that some pets have been soiling graves in an Elgin cemetery.
The “plain clothes patrol” will crack down on dog owners who let their animals run loose and fail to clean up after them.
The local authority recently received a report from a distressed member of the public, who noticed a dog fouling a burial plot at Linkwood Cemetery while they were visiting the resting place of a loved one.
The incident took place in a section of the New Elgin graveyard where infants are buried.
And the council fears the situation will get worse as darker nights draw in, and irresponsible owners can go unnoticed.
The community warden who is driving forward the ploy said undercover staff will adopt a “zero tolerance” approach towards offenders.
Donna Jamieson said: “We recently received a complaint from a lady who had been visiting the grave of a relative and noticed a dog urinating on a nearby grave in an area where children are buried.
“Dogs fouling graves and urinating on headstones is particularly distressing for those visiting their loved ones.
“The complainer said the cemetery appeared to be being used as a recreation spot, where dogs were running about.
“Most responsible dog walkers ensure their pets are kept under control within the cemetery grounds, but an inconsiderate minority need to be reminded that the cemetery is a place for reflection and remembrance, not a recreation area or a place to exercise dogs.”
The 51-year-old added that wardens had “no objection” to people walking their dogs through the cemetery – as long as they were kept on a leash.
Patrols will be stepped up in the early hours and as darkness begins to fall in the evening.
The scheme will be carried out by the four wardens already under council employment, though residents have also been asked to report any issues they observe.
In addition to the cemetery, they will target rural areas where the problem is believed to be at its worst.
In response to the complaint at the Linkwood Cemetery, Moray Council has also installed new signs at its entrances warning dog owners that they face an £80 fixed penalty fine if they fail to pick up their pets’ mess.
Elgin Community Council last night welcomed the scheme.
Group chairman, Alistair Kennedy, said: “To have dogs running about a cemetery unleashed shows complete disrespect to the people buried there.
“I think this is a great idea, anything that can be done to help stop this is a benefit.”
Moray residents have been encouraged to help by reporting instances of dog fouling to the local authority, via the website www.moray.gov.uk or telephone on 0300 1234561.