There are few prosecutions or fines issued by Dorset's dog warden and animal welfare service, which is costing £200,000 a year to run.

The four staff spend 60 per cent of their time dealing with dogs – typically 300 a year - of which most are strays, with around a third of them needing collection by a dog warden.

Around 80 per cent are reunited with their owners with a small number put down because of behaviour or ill-health.

Figures show that public complaints about dogs being out of control has risen to 430 cases so far this year, compared to 387 for the previous year.

Other concerns involving dogs has fallen – from 408 to 276 calls for dog fouling and from 312 to 217 for barking.

Dorset Council admits, in a report to councillors this Thursday, that few prosecutions or fixed penalty notices are issued.

"Any formal action including prosecution requires good evidence which unfortunately is rarely available. Patrolling has limited success in identifying offenders as most fouling often occurs during the hours of darkness and when no witnesses are present and no ability to identify offenders. Residents are understandably hesitant to confront people. Fixed penalty notices may be served if fouling is observed in a public place, however due to the inherent difficulties the council serves a relatively small number," it states.

The same report says that patrols are undertaken at ‘hotspots’, including early and late in the day, but are limited over weekends.

The other work of the team includes inspections of the 160 establishments which have animal welfare licences – ranging from dog and cat breeders to dog day care providers and premises classified as zoos.

“It is believed that the actual number of premises requiring inspection is higher due to a ‘hidden’ number of commercial operations often selling via websites or social media,” said a report to the Place Scrutiny committee.

Proposals for the future of the service include the possibility of an online stray dog register, body cameras for all officers and a look at the effectiveness patrolling by non-uniform staff.

The council is currently consulting on new orders which deal with where and when dogs can be exercised in public places and whether they need to be kept on a lead, or allowed to run free.

The proposed public protection orders also seek to harmonise when dogs laws are in effect across the council area.