It will be mandatory for dog owners to carry a litter bag when out with their pets in public if a new Bill introduced in the Dáil on Wednesday is passed.
The legislation is aimed at a small minority of dog owners who “simply do not give a damn what their dog does and have no real fear of being caught or penalised under current legislation”.
Introducing the Litter Pollution (Amendment) (Dog Litter Control) Bill, Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe said existing laws are not fit for purpose.
It is an offence for a dog owner not to pick up after their dog’s faeces but “our parks, footpaths, beaches and community areas are still littered with dog excrement”, he said.
The problem with existing regulation is in part because a dog warden has to actually witness a dog fouling and the owner leaving the waste behind to pursue a prosecution, the Dublin South-West TD said.
The Bill is co-sponsored by his Carlow-Kilkenny Kathleen Funchion.
Mr Crowe stressed that it is not anti-dog owner legislation but was “pro-health” and pro- trying to eliminate the practice.
It aims to impress on owners and “those in charge of dogs” the importance of picking up their pet’s faeces when in public.
The legislation makes it an offence not to produce a suitable bag or instrument when in control of a dog.
He rejected claims by some people that it was not a serious issue and said “it is a public health issue” because dog waste carried disease that if contracted by humans could be life changing.
Mr Crowe referred to an illness called Toxocariasis caused “by the parasitic roundworm which lives in the intestines of dogs and cats. Human contact with the eggs produced by the roundworm and excreted in a dog’s faeces can cause fever, cough or wheezing, enlarged liver, rash, swollen lymph nodes and even blindness.”
He added that “it is particularly dangerous for children and pregnant women or those with a low immune system”.
The new Bill will make it easier for wardens and An Garda Síochána to impose fines on irresponsible dog owners.
He also called for more bins for dog litter.