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Saturday 25 March 2017

'Dog blitz' clean-up in city to target owners

Shane Hickey

DOG owners who allow their pets foul Dublin's pavements and parks are getting away scot- free.

Just 15 fines were handed out to owners whose animals fouled public areas of the capital over a three year period, new figures reveal.

This even though 24 litter wardens, two dog wardens and An Garda Siochana are tasked with issuing fines.

In 2007, 10 litter fines were issued, there were three in 2008 and just two last year.

Dublin City Council last night said the lack of fines were due to weak legislation which makes it "very difficult to issue a fine".

But the council has clearly signalled that the issue is a problem across the city with a new push of "dog blitzes" due in the coming weeks to tackle dirt on the streets.

Specific areas of the city will be targeted for special attention from litter wardens and gardai working together.

Dublin City Council released the figures which show the exceptionally low level of fines following a query from Labour party councillor Kevin Humphreys.

Under section 22 of the Litter Pollution Acts, dog owners can expect a fine of €150 if they are caught and the case does not go to court.

This goes up to a potential €3,000 fine if the issue ends up before a judge.

In response to Cllr Humprhey's question, the local authority confirmed "24 litter wardens, two dog wardens and members of the gardai" are responsible for collecting fines.

But Cllr Humphreys said litter wardens were regularly given false names by people, which they could not check on the spot, or were simply abused when they faced someone whose animal was fouling the pavement.

A simple study in the Ringsend area showed 15 examples of dog fouling in one 10m stretch of footpath.

"Unless dog owners realise that this is going to be enforced, and there is a possibility that they are going to be caught, we are going to have the problems continue," Cllr Humphreys said. "I was surprised that, literally, there has been no enforcement over the last number of years."

Bernie Lillis, litter prevention officer with Dublin City Council, said the section of act which dealt with dog fouling was weak.

She said it was difficult to prove who owned a dog if they were not with their owner and wardens did not have powers of arrest. Litter wardens had to be able to prove details in court if necessary, she said.

Ms Lillis said gardai and litter officers would work at targeting unnamed specific areas of the city with intensive policing in coming weeks.

A garda spokesman said they were not in a position to comment on the number of fines last night.

At a meeting of Fingal County Council in Dublin earlier this week, management there was asked to provide dog waste bags in the Skerries area.

But the council admitted: "The message that dog owners must take personal responsibility for their dogs fouling needs to be emphasised and the provision of bags distracts from this message."

Irish Independent

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