A MAYO councillor has called for greater enforcement of the dog-fouling laws after it was revealed that no money was collected in fines for dog fouling in 2020.
In a response to a question from Robeen-based councillor Patsy O’Brien, Mayo County Council confirmed that €0 was collected in fines for dog fouling in 2020, and that in 2018 and 2019, only one fine was paid in each year.
Martin Keating, Senior Executive Engineer in the environmental section with Mayo County Council, noted that 2020 was a ‘challenging year in the delivery of services due to Covid’ and restrictions placed on staff, and that there had been a focus on fly-tipping.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Cllr O’Brien said that the number of dog-fouling incidents had visibly increased, particularly in the last 12 months, and that the situation must be addressed.
“Fining dog owners seems to be non-existant even though the number of dogs in the county has increased. Since I became a councillor in 2004, I have noticed when canvassing the increase in the amount of pet dogs – there can be up to three in a household.
“Since Covid, lots of people have taken up walking and many feel safe if they have a dog with them, and along with that dog fouling has increased. While there are a lot of responsible dog owners out there I have received complaints and noticed that a lot don’t clean up after their dogs. Dog fouling is not only unsightly it can be very dangerous especially to young children … there is a public health element to this as well.”
People who allow their dogs to foul in a public place are liable to a fine of €150, but Martin Keating, the Environmental Officer with Mayo County Council said that ‘truth of the matter is that this is an incredibly difficult issue to enforce’.
“Enforcement officers rely on persons reporting dog fouling acts to sign a witness statement for the matter to proceed and their is often a reluctance to proceed at this stage. Notwithstanding this, the Environmental Awareness Office carry out numerous ‘educational and awareness campaigns’ relating to dog fouling, appealing to dog owners to be ‘socially responsible’,” he wrote in a response to Cllr O’Brien’s question.
Cllr O’Brien believes it is not practicable for the public to have to report these incidents, arguing that greater enforcement by the local authority is needed on the ground.
“If an on-the-spot fine is by-lawed and advertised, it is going to make people think. Here there has been no fines at all in 2020 and one in 2019, but surely to God if you went down to the public parks in the morning you will surely catch someone.
“I do not want people to think I am out against dog owners, but unfortunately it takes fining people to get the message across to others that this is not on. You can have all the laws you want but if you don’t implement them they are not much good,” he said.
Cllr O’Brien added that he has noticed a number of signs in Galway outlining the consequences of allowing dog fouling, and that he believes similar signs should be more visible in public areas in Mayo.
“Galway County Council have signs up warning of on the spot fines. I don’t seen these signs around here. I would like to see an increase presence of signage in public areas. People need to be more aware of the problem of dog fouling,” he said.