Dogs don’t foul our pavements – dog owners do
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown has become a perilous pathway of stinky landmines
I know this may sound like a lame homage to a recent column by my esteemed colleague Fintan O’Toole, but I feel I have to say it: dog owners drive me crazy. They make me fume, they make me boil over, they even make me want to slap them on the nose. Bad dog owner! Naughty dog owner! Go to bed! That kind of angry.
What is my beef with dog owners? Not their dogs. I’m a dog lover, with a natural urge to stop to pet other people’s canine companion, no matter how fierce-looking (the dog, not the owner). Do I have an issue with how dog owners look after their pets once Christmas has passed? No – I’m absolutely certain 99 per cent of dog owners look after their pets properly, and see to their every doggy need. So, I’m a dog lover. But I’m a dog owner hater. My problem with them is simple – a large proportion of the dog-owning community seems completely unwilling to take responsibility for their pets’ by-products.
My colleague was driven mad by cyclists taking over the pavement; I’m driven demented by how dog poo seems to have taken over vast areas of the Earth’s surface – from paths to parklands, from grass verges to sandy beaches. On our daily perambulation through my leafy southside suburb, I and my family have to perform a strange, twisty dance, as we dodge the countless piles of dog poo dotted along our route. It seems to get worse during the summer months – perhaps the warm weather makes people more inclined to walk their dogs, thus bringing increased opportunity for pavement-fouling.
Walking with my wife and two small children down to Seapoint on a summer’s day, we have to keep our eyes down to watch out for these stinky landmines lying in wait at every turn. The path that runs alongside the Dart line between Seapoint and the West Pier is particularly hazardous – we call it Dog S*** Alley. We can’t let our kids roll down the grass in the park at Seapoint, because it’s booby-trapped with little poo-bombs.
It’s just as bad when we’re walking our six-year-old to school in St Patrick’s in Holly Park. Actually, it’s worse. Some of the dog owners around here go to the trouble of putting the poo in plastic bags, but then, not being able to locate a bin anywhere in the vicinity, toss the bags onto the nearest patch of grass. Why bother bagging the stuff – it only prolongs the putrefaction.
Public health hazard
Do we need to be reminded that dog poo is a public health hazard? It causes kidney and intestinal problems, and is the cause of a virulent eye-infection that, when contracted by children, can cause blindness.
We are currently on holidays in lovely Lake Garda in Italy. It is dog central – the German tourists who flock here love big, hairy dogs. There is not a speck of dog poo along the lakeside walks – although the ducks are another matter altogether.
I don’t know how bad the dog poo problem is in other parts of Ireland, or Dublin, but Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown seems to have it bad compared with, say, Clontarf. Take a stroll down the boardwalk along the Clontarf Road, and dog poo is refreshingly rare. There are bins everywhere, and signs that remind you to use a bin, any bin, not just a designated dog-poo bin – to dispose of the waste. And dog owners there seem to be complying.
In Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, however, the dog owners seem to have gone renegade. There is only one dog warden for the whole of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, although litter wardens are also authorised to deal with dog-fouling. According to a spokesperson for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, the litter wardens have to catch a dog in the act before they can act. When they confront dog owners, they often encounter dog’s abuse, and are regularly given false names and addresses. The fine for the few convicted of dog-fouling is a paltry €150; the council wants stronger legislation to be brought in as a deterrent.
Let’s be clear about one thing: dogs don’t foul our pavements. Dog owners do. It’s the dog owners who allow their pet to perform its toilette on the public thoroughfare while they stand several feet away so they can disown the dog should they be confronted. It’s the dog owners who make the decision to leave the poo in situ, rather than clean it up and dispose of it. It’s the dog owners who hurriedly tug at their pet’s leash and drag the dog down the street before anyone sees what they’ve done. It’s the dog owners who’ll baldly deny committing a footpath foul, even when caught in the act. Indeed, why bother bringing the dog? The owners should just hunker down in the street themselves and cut out the middlemutt – it amounts to the same thing. Dog owners are a menace – they should be rounded up and put into kennels.
So, now that I’ve just made mortal enemies of the dog-owning community, let me reassure my many dog-owning friends that I don’t include them in my sweeping condemnation. In fact, I don’t include most dog owners in this admittedly lame attempt to piggyback on my colleague’s recent column. Consider this simply the exasperated ranting of a man at the end of his tether, and on his last pair of poo-free boots.
I know it’s only a small minority of dog owners who do the dirty in our public areas, but judging from the amount of dog poo in my neighbourhood alone, it’s a minority that’s growing at an alarming rate. The majority of responsible, civic-minded dog owners need to do something about this hidden menace in their midst, before they are outnumbered.
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is planning several awareness-raising initiatives, including one at the end of the month, to try to tackle the problem. It is also working with a local dog-owners group, Dogs Unleashed, to try to make owners take responsibility for cleaning up their dogs’ mess. Good luck to that. Dogs Unleashed wants to amend the local bylaws so owners can let their dogs run free. They “encourage” owners to clean up after their dogs. That’s not enough. They need to start tackling the irresponsible dog owners, otherwise they’ll get scant sympathy from the wider public.
I suppose there’s one upside to all the poo on our pavements – it might discourage the cyclists.