Pet owners who are falling foul of the Litter Pollution Act by allowing their dogs to foul footpaths, public parks and popular walking routes, could cost Clonmel the success it has been striving for in the annual Tidy Town competition, if they continue to break the law and refuse to clean up after their pets.
And now offenders - the two legged variety - will soon be under increased risk of being caught in the act, and fined, as Clonmel Borough Council prepare to install covert cameras in secret locations.
Clonmel was deemed to be Cleaner than European Norms in the latest round of the IBAL survey, a significant improvement on last year’s result. But praise for this achievement was short-lived at this month’s meeting of the Council as the dog fouling problem quickly became the focus of the debate, cited as the one major drawback to Clonmel’s all-Ireland Tidy Town aspiration. The issue was also flagged as a potential health risk to young children who are walking and falling into dog foul on streets and in parks.
Last year Clonmel received a gold medal in the prestigious Tidy Towns awards, with 299 points, while overall winners Abbeyshrule, secured their success with 312 points. All-Ireland success for Clonmel is achievable having won gold on six occasions, but the brown mess that dots the streetscapes and walkways could be the one thing that stands in Clonmel’s way. Town clerk Ger Walsh praised the town’s performnace and achievements in recent competitions, such as the Entente Florale where it received silver, the Tidy Towns and IBAL, and said he looked forward to building on this success for 2013.
While agreeing with Mr Walsh, Cllr Joe Leahy said that the serious problem of dog fouling - a ‘blight on the town’ - needed to be taken seriosuly by the Council. A huge number of people are complaining about it, he said.
Cllr Brian O’Donnell congratulated everyone who works to keep Clonmel looking clean and tidy but agreed with Cllr Leahy.
“Last week, just around the corner from the Main Guard, there was dog foul all over the ground, there was a trail of it, people had walked into it and then into shops, this needs to be taken seriously,” he said.
Mayor Billy Shoer even went as far as suggesting that dogs may have to be banned from the town centre if the problem persisted.
“There is no doubt about it, we have come up a lot in the Tidy Towns, with the help of that committee, the street traders, the Council and the outdoor staff. We have six gold medals in the Tidy Towns but one of the biggest problems is dog fouling in the centre of town. It may be necessary to ban dogs from the centre of the town, maybe through the bye-laws,” he said.
“On Gladstone Street at Christmas time, it was absolutely disgusting, you’d think it was fair day, it was all over the place,” he said, adding that the people who allow this to happen have no respect for the town in which they live.
Cllr Darren Ryan highlighted the more serious problem that the dog fouling issue is posing to young children whose playtime in Mulcahy Park is impacted because of the prevalence of the dog fouling in the area. But he said that the Council should also provide bins for people to dispose of it when they do so.
“People in this town who abide by the law when out walking will pick up the dog poo but it is up to us to provide bins for them to dispose of it,” he said.
“There is an issue arising in Mulcahy Park, where people are allowing their dogs to run freely in the park, and when children fall over, they are falling into it and their hands are covered in dog poo,” he said.
Exposure to dog foul can potentially cause the illness Toxocariasis, from the larvae of the dog roundworm. Transmission is usually through ingestion, which is why cleaning up after your dog in the park or on the street is so important, in preventing young children from picking it up.
Cllr Ryan asked if signs could be erected to enforce the message that dogs must be kept on leads at all times in the park. Town clerk Ger Walsh said that existing bins in the town, of which there are approximately 100, are sufficient for the disposal of dog foul, but two specially designed bins will be erected shortly in Irishtown and the Powerstown Road. Mr Walsh said he hopes that with the introduction of the cameras and these bins, a change of habit and attitude can be enforced.