COUNCILLORS have demanded a crackdown on dog fouling in Moyle but they were told if they want further enforcement measures they will have to pay for an extra member of staff.
The subject was raised at a meeting of Moyle Council in Ballycastle on Monday January 28 by Council Chairperson, Cllr Cara McShane (Sinn Fein), who noticed that no fixed penalty notices had been given out for dog fouling in the month of December.
During the subsequent debate councillors suggested various ways off dealing with the problem.
Councillor Catherine McCambridge (SDLP) said one person contacted her and said they should do what California does and that is test the dog dirt for DNA to link it with the offending dog and its owner.
Cllr Randal McDonnell (Independent) said the dogs should be squirted with a product or a supply of corks issued for the animals and Cllr Willie Graham (Ulster Unionist) joked that perhaps dogs should wear nappies.
Cllr Cara McShane said she found it “very shocking” that there had been no dog foul fixed penalties issued in December and she said the issue of dog dirt on the streets is a hot topic of conversation, particularly on social media sites.
She said on-the-spot fines are a deterrent to irresponsible dog owners and she said another council had considered issuing fines to dog walkers if they don’t have bags in their possession to deposit dog dirt when stopped by dog wardens.
Cllr McShane said the Moyle area relies on tourists but that dog mess is unsightly as well as dangerous to people’s health and she added: “We really need to take a far tougher approach”.
Cllr Margaret Anne McKillop (Independent) claimed there was not one footpath in the Glens area which is not covered in dog dirt.
She said the Dog Warden is not out and about enough in the Glens.
Cllr Donal Cunningham (SDLP) said dog fouling is a big issue and he said a person remarked to him that the Plastic Bag Tax is playing a part in an increase in dog foul on the streets because people have less plastic bags to bring with them to scoop up the mess after their pets.
Cllr Colum Thompson (Sinn Fein) said the Dog Warden should use a clearly marked van and wear highly visible Dog Warden clothing in an attempt to deter people instead of driving in areas like the Glens in an unmarked van.
Cllr Sandra Hunter (Ulster Unionist) said there was much dog fouling at the tramway walkway near Bushmills where she said more bins are needed.
Cllr Randal McDonnell (Independent) said the Plastic Bag Tax was “most anti-sanitary” as it meant there were not enough plastic bags about to be used to scoop up dog dirt but Cllr Cara McShane said that cannot be used as an excuse as people can buy one or two hundred biodegradable bags for a pound.
Council officer Aidan McPeake said Moyle Council has only one member of staff enforcing dog fouling and litter offences and that are only some elements of the employee’s duties.
Mr McPeake told councillors that if they wished they could take on another member of staff to help police the issue as he said the square-mile size of Moyle and the number of dogs makes it an “almost impossible” job for one person.
Mr McPeake said it is important that the public give the Council good information about the places and particularly the times that dog fouling occurs.
Regarding the issue of the visibility of the warden, Mr McPeake said being “covert” could mean catching more people but at the same timke being visible could make make dog walkers more compliant.
He said it is the responsibility of dog owners to clean up after their pets.
Council Vice-Chairperson, Cllr Robert McIlroy (DUP), agreed it is a big issue and Cllr Padraig McShane (Independent) said it should be stressed the vast majority of dog owners are responsible and do clean up after their pets.