When undercover council employees and community gardaí hit the parks last summer to catch dog owners who weren’t picking up after their pets, it was unclear whether the pilot scheme would become a permanent feature of the city’s battle against dog poo.
It’s heading that way, though.
After a trial period about 12 months back in the council’s South Central area, which covers from Crumlin to Ballyfermot and over to the Liberties, the programme was up and running again there recently; officials have clocked up 60 hours of “active enforcement” in the South Central area since the beginning of May.
At the South Central area committee last month, council officials presented a report which outlined progress so far.
In the first 60 hours of enforcement, gardaí and enforcement officers patrolled public areas and parks and issued 35 fines under the Litter Pollution Act of 1997. Fifteen of these were in Dublin 12, and 20 of them in Dublin 8.
So far, it’s cost the council in the area €13,233, the report said. This leaves €16,767 from a budget of €30,000 to last the rest of the year.
Councillors from the area commended the council’s public-domain unit for their vision. Independent Councillor Vincent Jackson said that it is of “immense nuisance value” to have people neglecting to clean up after their dogs.
“It is one of the biggest issues,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh, noting the litter, pollution, and health-and-safety problems that come from people not clearing up after their dogs.
But Ní Dhálaigh wondered why the initiative had yet to be rolled out to other parts of the city.
Each of the five local areas has been given €30,000 to carry out undercover schemes like this, said Paul Rainsford, the council’s public-domain officer.
As of the morning of that meeting, though, of 40 dog-fouling offences recorded in the gardaí’s PULSE system, 35 were in either Dublin 8 or Dublin 12.
There was one line in the report that Pat Dunne, Independent4Change councillor for the area, noticed. It said that the scheme had been paused for a bit while the public-domain officer reviewed health and safety arrangements for staff involved in the programme.
Was it unsafe or had staff been threatened?
Rainsford said that the officials involved had all kinds of interactions with people and some were amicable. But “some of which were not so pleasant or amicable”, he said.
A council spokesperson later said by email, “The review … was necessitated by the occurrence of a potential hazard not originally intended in the initial risk assessment.” They didn’t expand on what the hazard was and after the review decided that the existing health and safety rules were okay, they said.
Whether the scheme is helping to reduce the piles of dog poo in parks and on streets is hard to gauge. In Drimnagh’s Brickfield Park on a hot Tuesday afternoon, many people were still not aware that the council has adopted and stepped up this enforcement.
Theresa Jordan was out walking Rosie, her enthusiastic miniature collie. She had more to say about the park in general.
“They need more cleaners in this park,” she said. Bins are often not emptied for days after they are filled, she said.
What about dog dirt – is it an issue? Do people pick up after their pups?
“Women do,” said Jordan. “The men don’t.”