The dog population in Kerry is estimated at 20,000, producing around eight tonnes of excrement a day, which is just under 3,000 tonnes of dog litter each year! Or as a friend of mine once described the problem ... 'that indefatigable and unsavoury engine of pollution - the dog.'
Dog fouling is a major concern to many people. The majority of the population are worried about the amount of dog fouling, not just because of the mess it causes but because it can also be linked to health risks including 'Toxocara canis'. Roundworm eggs are found in dog mess, which can easily be picked up by young children. This causes stomach upsets, sore throats, asthma and in rare cases blindness. The eggs can remain active in the soil for many years, long after the dog mess has weathered away. Toxocara canis most commonly affects children between 18 months and five years.
Dog fouling is a major issue for many of our towns in Kerry, particularly on popular walking routes by rivers or along the coast. It is the most offensive type of litter on our streets and it is consistently raised as a public concern. People bring it into their homes on their shoes, on pram wheels, wheelchairs, toys, footballs etc. You know you have a real clean up job to do when you get that all too familiar smell indoors and the shout goes up ' OK, everyone check your shoes.' Some dog owners still fail to clean up after their dogs and the highest level of dog fouling in not in rural parts of Kerry but in the urban centres where the concentration of population is highest.
Under our Litter Act 1997, it is the responsibility of the dog owner or the person in charge of the dog to clear up any dog foul left by their dog. If you fail to clean up after your dog you can be issued with an on the spot fine of €150 or even more if the case goes to court. The regulations state specifically, that being unaware that the dog has fouled, or not having a suitable means of removing the faeces is not a reasonable excuse for failing to clean up after your dog.
More and more dog owners are feeling the force of a €150 fine for not cleaning up after their dog. Fenit in particular has had the highest number of fines issued and paid, but the litter wardens have been active in all corners of Kerry and will continue to deal with this problem. For dog owners, the simple message is 'Any Bag -Any Bin' so no excuses, just clean up the mess your dog leaves in public places.