Photo by Cathal Kavanagh

When undercover council employees and community gardaí hit the parks last summer to catch dog owners who weren’t picking up after their pets, it was unclear whether the pilot scheme would become a permanent feature of the city’s battle against dog poo.

It’s heading that way, though.

After a trial period about 12 months back in the council’s South Central area, which covers from Crumlin to Ballyfermot and over to the Liberties, the programme was up and running again there recently; officials have clocked up 60 hours of “active enforcement” in the South Central area since the beginning of May.

The Numbers

At the South Central area committee last month, council officials presented a report which outlined progress so far.

In the first 60 hours of enforcement, gardaí and enforcement officers patrolled public areas and parks and issued 35 fines under the Litter Pollution Act of 1997. Fifteen of these were in Dublin 12, and 20 of them in Dublin 8.

So far, it’s cost the council in the area €13,233, the report said. This leaves €16,767 from a budget of €30,000 to last the rest of the year.

Councillors from the area commended the council’s public-domain unit for their vision. Independent Councillor Vincent Jackson said that it is of “immense nuisance value” to have people neglecting to clean up after their dogs.

“It is one of the biggest issues,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh, noting the litter, pollution, and health-and-safety problems that come from people not clearing up after their dogs.

But Ní Dhálaigh wondered why the initiative had yet to be rolled out to other parts of the city.

Each of the five local areas has been given €30,000 to carry out undercover schemes like this, said Paul Rainsford, the council’s public-domain officer.

As of the morning of that meeting, though, of 40 dog-fouling offences recorded in the gardaí’s PULSE system, 35 were in either Dublin 8 or Dublin 12.

The Hazards

There was one line in the report that Pat Dunne, Independent4Change councillor for the area, noticed. It said that the scheme had been paused for a bit while the public-domain officer reviewed health and safety arrangements for staff involved in the programme.

Was it unsafe or had staff been threatened?

Rainsford said that the officials involved had all kinds of interactions with people and some were amicable. But “some of which were not so pleasant or amicable”, he said.

A council spokesperson later said by email, “The review … was necessitated by the occurrence of a potential hazard not originally intended in the initial risk assessment.” They didn’t expand on what the hazard was and after the review decided that the existing health and safety rules were okay, they said.

Whether the scheme is helping to reduce the piles of dog poo in parks and on streets is hard to gauge. In Drimnagh’s Brickfield Park on a hot Tuesday afternoon, many people were still not aware that the council has adopted and stepped up this enforcement.

Theresa Jordan was out walking Rosie, her enthusiastic miniature collie. She had more to say about the park in general.

“They need more cleaners in this park,” she said. Bins are often not emptied for days after they are filled, she said.

What about dog dirt – is it an issue? Do people pick up after their pups?

“Women do,” said Jordan. “The men don’t.”

Cathal Kavanagh is currently a student at Trinity College Dublin. He has writen for a number of publications around Dublin, including GoldenPlec and H&G.

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  1. Few questions about fining below. Be great to open this topic up to wider statistical analysis.

    What’s the normal payment % on any Litter Pollution Act fine?

    How many fines under the Litter Pollution Act of 1997 were issued in 2015 by South Central council?

    What was total return on these fines?

    Cost per poo campaign fines 13,233/35 = 378 per fine issued.

    How much is the fine? Applying the normal % payment rate, how many fines would need to issue before this program paid for itself?

  2. More often than not you see the just little bags everywhere as there is nowhere to put them even when they do collect it.

    The problem is a permanent one, as long as people have pets and there are parks – so it defies logic that there aren’t better designed bins that are larger, need to be emptied less regularly and store the waste and issue bags – perhaps like this one –

    Cardboard coffee cups don’t spread disease, yet for some reason councils would rather spend the majority of their time and resources facilitating the collection of used coffee cups for landfill, which must make up to 80% of the waste in city bins, than collect fecal matter that can spread disease, but which can be composted safely by commercial composters rather than coffee cups which just add to landfill. In Toronto they even use their dog waste and turn it into energy – biogas.

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