Councillor says more restricted dog signs to go up despite abuse

Opponent emails Alan Tobin saying he hopes the Meath politician ‘dies in a car crash’

A Meath district councillor who has received vitriolic online abuse after posting a picture of a restricted dog breeds sign on one of his Facebook pages said more signs will be erected in public places across the county.

Ashbourne councillor Alan Tobin posted an image of the public safety notice on Sunday, May 8th, saying: "As a dog owner I'm absolutely delighted that signs I've asked for, with pictures, showing the dangerous breeds of dogs have been erected over the past week. It still amazes me that some people think these dogs are ideal family pets."

The post, in which the councillor commended Meath County Council for putting up the signs in a number of parks and playgrounds across the county, has over 43 million views, according to Mr Tobin.

Speaking to The Irish Times on Monday, Mr Tobin said the signs will "of course" be kept and more will be erected.

“There is no reason for the signs to be taken down. The council will continue to put them up in public spaces across county Meath. There are more signs printed and ready to go”.

Over 300,000 comments have been written under Mr Tobin’s Facebook post, most of them from outraged dog owners attacking Mr Tobin’s approach to dog ownership and safety.

The councillor has also received many emails containing personal abuse. In one email seen by The Irish Times, the writer opens his statement by saying he hopes Mr Tobin "dies in a car crash".

The writer goes on to say: “My pitbull, the one you called vicous (sic) and dangerous and said he should be muzzled, don’t have a f**king ounce of meaness in his body!

“Get off ur stupid fat rich ass and come meet him! People like you are why America is gonna fall hard!”

Mr Tobin says he has received “terrible abuse” since posting the image online, and that many emails are in the same tone as the one seen here.

However, because "almost 100 per cent of the abuse is coming from the UK, the US, Canada and Australia, where dog laws are different," the councillor said he did not think the abuse was something gardaí could address.

An online petition has also been created calling for Mr Tobin to be removed from Meath County Council. The petition has 12,661 signatures so far.

The councillor's business Facebook page, Ashbourne Auto Clinic, has also received over 70 one star reviews since Tobin posted the images of the signs on his personal page.

Most of the poor reviews relate to his comments on dogs and not the service received at the garage.

Asked if he was worried the poor reviews would affect his business, Mr Tobin said: “Absolutely. I’ve spent 12 years building the business, I employ locally and use local suppliers. I don’t know how many people look at the ratings but yes I’m worried about it”.

Mr Tobin said the abuse he received has caused “upset and distress” and says people need to see “that this is not acceptable”.

“When something is said it can be debated but abuse should not be tolerated. I’m of a strong mind and I am a confident person who believes in what I do and say, imagine if it was someone that could not deal with this?”

He said the media attention around the post “sparked a debate around dog ownership in Ireland”. He has called for a review of licensing laws.

“Why should we go to a post-office to get a dog licence? It should be coming from a vet. You should get a handbook on how to care for dog when you get one.

“We need to rethink how we treat our animals. People need to properly research the breed they are getting and make sure they are able to handle it.”

Mr Tobin says he has also received messages of support and encouragement, as well as calls from people in other counties looking to put up similar signs in their public spaces.