THERE are not many subjects which completely and emotively unify Down District Council chamber but the need to wage war on dog fouling is one of them.
On listening to an Environment Committee report on the number of stray dogs lifted, reclaimed dogs and dogs licensed within the District, Councillor Eddie Rea became vexed when it was explained that it cost approximately £100,ooo to have Council enforcement officers on the fouling bye law duty which last year achieved only 10 fixed penalties of £25.
He said, “Councillors have full powers to deal with dog fouling and this is just not value for money. It works out at almost £10,000 a ticket. We really need to wrap this up. It could be privatised. I would like to see a breakdown of the problem in different areas. Dog fouling is one of our greatest problems and we have failed miserably in dealing with it.”
Councillor Anne McAleenan said that the Council had a legal responsibility to address dog fouling. “We need to start doing this as a priority. It should be done over the next six months. This is not about raising money from fines but a fine will get people talking.”
A suggestion that the Council enforcement officers spend more time chasing up dog fouling was rejected by Councillor Billy Walker who said that these officers were already heavily engaged in working with the Community Safety Partnership as part of their work in anti-social behaviour. He added, “But a result of 10 fixed penalties for the past year was just attrocious.
“Also, you are not going to get fixed penalty fines when the enforcement officers are out in a van that has ‘enforcement’ written on the side of it. There is a definite case for a clamp down. We need to get this sorted out. As far as the three enforcement officers are concerned, it is about getting the work balance right.”
Councillor Fitzpatrick said, “Some of the dogs kept are more like wild animals. It is unbelieveable. Some dogs are being kept in homes that are totally unsuitable. It is a matter of time before there is a disaster.”
Annual Dog Report
In 2009/10, there were 637 stray dogs impounded and of these, 108 were humanely destroyed. 356 were sold by the pound operator and 124 were reclaimed. The others were transferred or not sold. Of the 160 unwanted dogs, 71 were sold, and 73 were destroyed.
The number of foot patrols by enforcement officers in 2009 were 859 and the following year they were 789 (up until 31st December), showing a drop, and the number of dogs licensed in 2009 was 6665 compared to the lower figure of 5108 in 2010.
Indiscriminate dog fouling apart from its obvious unpleasant appearance can bring serious health risks such as toxicara, the growth of tri-locular cysts found in the soft organs of the body (eg eye and kidneys) mainly in children and can lead to blindness, and it can also lead to the infestation of tape and round worms.
Councillor Johnston said, “A dog license only costs £5 and it could save the lives of around a 100 dogs a year and help prevent dog fouling.”
The Environment Committee agreed that the enforcement officers should play a greater role in addressing dog fouling and increase their rate of penalties as a deterrent, but this would be monitored against their other duties in addressing anti-social behaviour.