Unleash a wave of measures to tackle dog dirt

Walkers who stroll the footpaths of Cork in search of January exercise can find a minefield of dog dirt. ERIC NOLAN of the Labour Party says it’s time for proper measures to tackle the owners.
Unleash a wave of measures to tackle dog dirt
PICK UP A POOPER SCOOPER: Dog owners are being urged to clean up after their four legged friends. Picture: Stock

I LOVE Christmas. As a parent, the wonder and joy that my children bring is just awesome. The fact that I’m not the one trying to fall asleep so Santa will visit really seems profound to me. Time is passing. And as many have warned, it seems to be speeding up. I also really enjoy eating to excess. Really enjoy.

Like an over-extended credit card, January is a time for me to pay for all that extra food. Looking at the numerous Facebook posts and ads of quick fix diets (I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no such thing), I don’t think I’m alone. Healthy food has returned and many of us are trying to exercise.

Walking for exercise and pleasure is something I only discovered relatively recently. When trying to get fit, I was never able to go for a run every day. The only thing that stops a daily walk is time shortages.

I find a walk mentally soothing and am generally in better form afterwards. The kids enjoy it too. It’s a time for chatting, laughing and just spending quality time together.

It’s also a cheap activity. There are plenty of walking routes and parks throughout Cork. The Waterford Greenway is worth a day trip and the planned Midleton to Youghal Greenway will be very welcome if delivered.

The demand is clear and hopefully we will see more initiatives like this around Cork in the coming years. Decent shoes and warm jackets are all that’s really required for a family afternoon of exercise. In a time when most families need both parents working to survive, that’s to be cherished.

The last thing any of us should have to do after a family walk is scrub excrement from multiple sets of shoes. And yet more often than not that’s what I end up doing.

Those with buggies or wheelchairs are affected even more, they often can’t leave them at the door as they return home. Excrement of unknown origin is invading our homes. As well as being disgusting, this poses real health risks.

Toxocariasis is a condition that can cause serious illness to humans. Young children are most often affected because they are less likely to wash their hands properly, and more likely to put things in their mouths.

It’s caused by a parasite known as Toxocariasis Canis. Toxocariasis Canis which lives in dogs’ digestive systems. The parasite lays eggs which escape in the dog’s faeces. These eggs can live long after the dog excrement is gone.

Your child can become infected from ingesting soil even where no evidence of dog excrement exists. The symptoms can be serious. They can include stomach upsets, eye problems and seizures. If untreated it can lead to blindness. It’s rare but totally avoidable.

Corks communal walkways and parks, as well as our footpaths and main streets, are for all of our use. As citizens, I think we all have a responsibility not to make each other’s lives more difficult.

Dog ownership is a joy. For many people, their dog is a fully-fledged member of the family. With this joy comes responsibility.

The vast majority of dog owners do the responsible thing. These responsible people get just as annoyed as everybody else. There have been numerous awareness campaigns and articles on the issue. Signage is everywhere.

I think it’s fair to say that those who do not pick up are fully aware that they are doing wrong. We need more than awareness campaigns.

The recent revelation that only four dog fouling fines have been issued in Cork city in the last 20 years is stark. Despite widespread public outrage, nothing of any real import is being done. While my children really enjoy entering colouring competitions, in this case they won’t fix the problem. We need much stronger action.

Numerous Councils in the UK have tackled this problem in a much stronger fashion. In 2014, Hyndburn Council in Lancashire began offering a £50 award to anyone who submitted pictures of dog owners not picking up, which les to a prosecution. Last year, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson launched a scheme that would exempt successful ‘pooper snoopers’ from council tax for a year. Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council in Wales engaged in a name and shame campaign as far back as 2011, deployed plain-clothed wardens and increased fines. They claimed these measures halved the problem. These may seem extreme actions, but dog dirt is an extreme problem.

The reality is that when detection and prosecution is deemed extremely unlikely, many people will not change their behaviour.

It’s fair to say the likelihood of offenders being caught and prosecuted in Cork is almost nil. The threat of being named and shamed could shift this balance. The possibility of a passer-by sending a photo to the council could make many offenders change their ways. Most people carry smartphones these days.

Financial constraints are often cited as reasons nothing real is being done. There will always be worthy demands on a council’s finite resources. There will most likely never be a time when funding will be easily found. It’s time to take action now. It’s time to reclaim our streets and walkways.

Eric Nolan is a father of two living in Midleton. He works in Cork Airport’s Police Fire Service. He is the Labour Party’s Local Area Representative for Cork East. You can learn more on Facebook EricNolanLabour or Twitter @ericnolanlab

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