Behind the News: Environmental awareness officer Joan Tarmey

Clare County Council is playing messages to holidaymakers to get them to clean up after their dogs. Its environmental awareness officer says it’s having a big effect

Kilkee: keeping itself clean. Photograph: Alan Betson

Kilkee: keeping itself clean. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 01:00

‘Bin your litter or take it home. Always pick up after your dog. And enjoy your walk.” That’s the message you’ll hear playing at Co Clare’s most popular beaches this summer. In their first month, the county council says, the recordings have halved the amount of dog fouling on Kilkee and Lahinch beaches.

Dog fouling is a big issue for local authorities. Parents of young children in particular complain about the hazards associated with it. “Dog faeces are unsightly and much more hazardous than human faeces in terms of the number of bacteria they contain,” says Joan Tarmey, the council’s environmental-awareness officer.

Clare County Council recorded 1,008 dogs at Kilkee (below) and 1,472 dogs at Lahinch one week last month. Bylaws ban them from beaches between 11am and 6pm in summer. But the peak time for walking dogs at Kilkee is 3pm-5pm, when there’s an average of 15 dogs per hour. The peak at Lahinch is 5pm-8pm, with 20 dogs per hour.

The two beaches are the first in the west of Ireland to use this type of recording. “The anti-litter message has been around for some time, so we had to come up with something new to get people to pay attention,” says Tarmey.

She adds that the messages should also reduce the amount of litter dropped by the tens of thousands of visitors to the resorts each summer – more than 24,000 people came to Kilkee and almost 40,000 came to Lahinch promenade between July 22nd and 28th this year. “People are good, but we need to keep reminding them. Some people still stuff things like nappies between the rocks.”

Littering or not cleaning up after your dog carries a penalty of up to €3,000. “So far we’ve issued two on-the-spot fines this year,” says Tarmey. “It’s about education and awareness and then enforcement.”

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