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Council wants to ban dogs from Blue Flag beaches

News

IN THE DOGHOUSE This canine was enjoying the warm weather at Old Head beach in 2016 but under new proposals, dogs will be banned from Blue Flag beaches during the summer.

Councillor describes proposed by-law as a step too far

Anton McNulty

THE proposal to ban dogs from walking on Blue Flag beaches during the summer is a step too far according to one dog loving councillor who described the proposal as ‘nanny-statism’.
Mayo County Council plans to introduce by-laws for blue flag beaches which include excluding dogs from the blue flag beaches between 11am to 6.30pm during the bathing season which is from the beginning of June to the end of August.
Head of the Environment section within Mayo County Council, Martin Keating told members of the Environment Strategic and Policy Committee (SPC) that the by-law is necessary as part of the new criteria for blue flag status. He said dog fouling on beaches is cited as a reason for poor water quality on some beaches around the country.
However, Fine Gael councillor Donna Sheridan said she could not support the proposal and felt there should be other alternatives to banning dogs altogether.
“I agree dog fouling is a major issue but there has to be a better way of trying to deal with this by increasing fines and just promoting more responsibility for the owner of the dog on the beach. As someone who has a large dog I would never have him off the lead on the beach but I know my dog walks on the beach all times of the year and there are a lot of responsible dog owners out there.
“I think this may be going a step too far and we should try to do something else like fines rather than this step. I do think it will look like nanny-statism and there has to be a way of encouraging people to clean up after their dogs rather than through this,” she said.
However, her party colleague Peter Flynn held an opposite view saying that as someone who regularly swims in the sea, it is a necessary move.
“I am lucky enough to be able to swim at least eight or nine months of the year and appreciate what it means to see dog poop on the edge of the shore and know it’s going to be inside in the water not too long afterwards when you are swimming.
“I know there will be people saying this is nothing but nanny state but we do have to look at the big picture. In the Westport area we have lost a blue flag in Bertra and Old Head and one of the contributing factors was dog fouling. I think this is not something you would wish for but it is something we have to do,” he said.

Fear
Both Cllr Flynn and Belmullet-based Cllr Seán Carey said that one of the biggest complaints they get relates to dogs running off their lead on beaches around people who are afraid of dogs.
Cllr Flynn also pointed out that the banning of dogs is only for the bathing season and they are not prohibited from non-blue flag beaches.
Director of Services, John Condon said while he sympathises with Cllr Sheridan’s point of view, he said that without this by-law they could face not meeting the criteria for blue flag beaches.
“If we could find an alternative way of dealing with it, it would have to be something which would not disqualify us from getting the blue flag,” he said.
Mr Keating added that there was an element of urgency to get the by-laws published in order for them to be in place for the 2022 bathing season.
Mr Keating said another by-law being proposed surrounds noise pollution from generators used by casual traders trading at beaches. He said that while there was no noise limit, he asked traders to explore alternative means than noisy generators.
“We like to steer them towards other ways of generating power for facilities. There have been a lot of developments in terms of solar power and batteries. There are alternatives for people to be a little bit more creative,” he said.