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Sunday 18 August 2019

Just four people fined in Dublin for failing to scoop dog poo

Foul play: Councils admit it is difficult to successfully prosecute offenders who don't clean up after their dog. Photo: Depositphotos
Foul play: Councils admit it is difficult to successfully prosecute offenders who don't clean up after their dog. Photo: Depositphotos

Alan O'Keeffe

Councils seeking to bring dog owners to heel for refusing to 'poop-scoop' are finding it tough going, officials have admitted.

Council staff said it was very difficult to successfully prosecute offenders who show contempt for their community by leaving their dogs' poop behind on public paths and green spaces.

Dublin City Council confirmed only four fines were issued to dog owners last year, compared with 22 fines in 2017, 78 fines in 2016 and 26 in 2015.

The sudden drop in 'dog log' prosecutions in the city happened at the end of a localised three-year enforcement campaign which was carried out with direct assistance of gardai.

Kilkenny County Council admitted very few fines were issued in its area in recent years because "it is very difficult to prosecute", said a spokeswoman.

"Even if a dog is seen doing it, the person with the dog may claim he is not the owner," she added.

"We may receive a telephone complaint from a householder who reports their neighbour's dog doing it on a local green but the caller will then refuse to give evidence in court so it is extremely difficult to prosecute."

The council rented a 'talking lamp-post' for a riverside path in Kilkenny city which gave verbal warnings to dog owners to clean up after their dogs to help combat the problem, she said.

Waterford Council said it received 84 complaints last year from the public about dogs defecating and two fines were issued.

"We do have problems in certain areas where dogs are let loose to defecate, usually around housing estates. The issue of dog fouling requires a culture change," said a spokeswoman.

"It is slowly improving with more dog owners seen picking up after their dogs, but unfortunately there are a small minority who persist in failing to clean up."

Sligo County Council reported two fines being issued in 2017 and 2018, stating "it is an extremely difficult littering problem to carry out enforcement work".

Both Sligo and Waterford reported using stencils to spray biodegradable paint images of dogs on to footpaths to remind owners to clean up after them.

Limerick Council said four fines were issued last year and there was one successful legal case.

Five fines were issued the previous year, with two referred for legal proceedings.

"Members of the public have become more concerned in recent years and consequently more complaints are being logged," said a spokesman.

Many councils stated they hand out free pooper scooper or poop bags in public awareness campaigns.

Several councils have had no successful prosecutions in recent years.

A Dublin City Council spokesman admitted that the big fall-off in fines last year happened when gardai were no longer associated with an enforcement campaign.

"These campaigns, which were carried out with the assistance of gardai, were extremely resource intensive and have more recently been replaced by ongoing patrols, carried out by dog wardens and other city council officers in areas of high footfall dog walking to prevent and deter dog fouling and also raise awareness of the issue," he said.

The city council's waste management department has been carrying out an awareness campaign to remind dog owners of the consequences of not removing dog fouling, particularly the dangers to children and those who use buggies, wheelchairs and mobility aids, he added.

Also highlighted is how "it is easy for dog owners to play their part in solving the problem by disposing of dog fouling in any public litter bin of which there are over 3,000 provided in the city".

The spokesman added: "There are also over 100 dog-foul specific bins provided in locations throughout the city."

The council staff, who take part in poop patrols, carry out "awareness raising" exercises and distribute free dog waste bags to dog walkers. Free bags are also available in city libraries and offices.

Mayo County Council erected signs in Castlebar stating: "Want to start yoga? Start by bending over and picking up your dog poo - known as the Downward Dog Position - then put it in the bin!"

Sunday Independent

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