Body worn cameras are being considered by Armagh City and District Council as a tool in the fight against the growing problem of dog fouling in the area, Armagh I can reveal.
It is also considering introducing further bylaws as it aims to cut back on the public health nuisance.
The introduction of further dog fouling bins in problem areas, biodegradable stencils to highlight the issue to the public and CCTV are also expected to be introduced. The use of CCTV, it is felt, would provide the evidence required to take enforcement action at times when officers or members of the public are not present to witness an offence and provide statements.
The series of recommendations emerged when the Council’s Head of Environmental Health and Neighbourhood Services, Seamus Donaghy, presented a detailed report at a recent committee meeting, when he provided detail on the function of the dog control service, numbers of complaints, fixed penalty notices, prosecutions etc.
He also highlighted the need for consideration of devices that could assist officers, such as CCTV and body cameras, and the advantages and disadvantages of declaring new Dog Control Orders.
The council has already bought two CCTV cameras which are for use in cutting back on environmental crime in general, such as dog fouling, littering and illegal dumping. Signage would indicate where the cameras are in use.
It has now been recommended that two cameras, to be worn by enforcement officers on patrol, be bought.
The provision of bins for dog mess across the council area has also been reviewed and it has been recommended that 15 red dog bins be replaced with black bins for dog foul waste and general litter. A further 10 bins would be bought and installed in areas of high demand. The bins would also include wording to advise public that dog fouling waste and litter can be accepted, while labels, with black with gold writing, would be placed on existing bins.
During the course of a lengthy debate, SF Cllr Garath Keating welcomed the potential solutions to tackle dog fouling but questioned if the number of additional bins suggested would be adequate. He felt that the idea of stencils was good asked too that the number of patrols be increased.
Independent Unionist Cllr Paul Berry said there were a lot of irresponsible dog owners and thanked the officer for his detailed report on “this very important matter”. In respect of the bins, Councillor Berry said that he found people complained when there was no red coloured bin and said that he believed a sticker on the black bins would be a good way to educate people that dog foul could be disposed of in the black bin also.
Councillor Berry referred to the recommendations and felt they would go a great way to deal with the problem, but he added it would be good to see more prosecutions taking place in order for people to realise the council were taking the issue seriously.
SDLP Cllr Thomas O’Hanlon said he was not in favour of the proposed stencils as he felt they were a form of graffiti in themselves and suggested there was a need for more fines to be issued. He enquired if the CCTV cameras could be moved around and if there would be any issue in terms of a person’s human rights. He also asked who would manage them and, if there was an incident being investigated, would the PSNI need to ask for them.
UUP Cllr Jim Speers pointed out the fact that there had been no prosecutions made since April 2013 in respect of dog fouling. He said it was a cultural issue throughout the City and District that needed addressed and in order for this to happen facilities needed to be put in place. He suggested that recommendations could be open for review and updating and requested that a camera be situated in Richhill Park where there was “a real problem”.
SDLP Cllr Sharon Haughey-Grimley commended the dog warden for his excellent work and, making reference to the report, said what was recommended would help raise awareness that something was being done by council to tackle the problem.
In respect of the Dog Control Orders, she said that all dogs were excluded from graveyards completely. She asked if this could be monitored as some older people liked to bring their dogs to the grave of a loved one. She suggested if there was no problem in graveyards in rural areas that this should be omitted at this stage. In terms of stencils she commented that they would raise awareness and would be happy that they be used in appropriate areas as a temporary measure which could create a talking point in the short term.
DUP Cllr Terry McWilliams welcomed the stencils on the basis that they were something different and would not be permanent.
He also enquired as to what the public could do if they witnessed dog fouling and was told by Mr Donaghy that the public had a role in reporting incidents. He said it would be beneficial if a description of the dog, the area and an approximate time could be provided which would then enable officers to target patrols to these areas at appropriate times.
The Head of Environmental Health and Neighbourhood Services also reported that the dog warden covered a wide range of duties with dog fouling being a small part.
He advised that on receipt of complaints reactive patrols were put in place and leaflet drops carried out in the area.
Mr Donaghy said that the City and District covered a large area and even with all officers patrolling no one may be caught.
DUP Cllr Lavelle McIlwrath remarked that anything that went any way to tackling the problem and educating dog owners was to be welcomed and referred to the cameras and stencils as being a “positive step in the right direction”. He referred to the tourist attractions the City and District had to offer and said the issue of dog fouling would not leave a good lasting impression to visitors.
He also suggested that if officers were to concentrate on one town or village for a period of time it may be more beneficial and people may notice that council was taking the matter seriously and more people may be caught.
SDLP Cllr Mealla Campbell said she largely agreed with what all that had been said although she would have concerns regarding stencils on areas such as The Mall.
DUP Cllr Freda Donnelly said people needed to be made aware that the council was not prepared to tolerate the problem and aimed to make the City and District a better and healthier place.
In response to her query regarding dogs on leads, Mr Donaghy said it was felt a ‘dog on lead’ policy would help reduce the problem on areas such as The Mall, as owners would no longer be able to make the excuse that they did not witness their dog fouling.
In respect of signage, Cllr Donnelly suggested that all councils should embrace the Order and also suggested if people received a prosecution with their names published people would soon learn that council was serious in tackling the problem.
The council has agreed to bring before Executive Committee for approval a number of proposals, including a policy on the use of CCTV surveillance, the purchase and use of two body worn devices by authorised enforcement officers, the use of dog fouling stencils in identified areas, and action points in respect of the provision of bins.
The council is also expected to agree to consider a consultation exercise on further Dog Control Orders and the areas to which they should apply.
These would be The Dogs on Lead by Direction (Armagh City and District Council) Order 2014; The Dogs on Leads (Armagh City and District Council) Order 2014; and The Dogs Exclusion (Armagh City and District Council) Order 2014.
They could be designated as follows:
Dogs on Leads Order: A person in charge of a dog will be guilty of an offence if he does not have his dog on a lead. This means that a person must keep a dog or a dog under their control, on a lead in this area.
The Dogs on Lead by Direction: The effect of the Order will be to make it an offence for a person in charge of a dog to fail to comply with a direction given by an authorised officer of the Council to put and keep the dog on a lead on land specified.
Dogs Exclusion Order: If an owner takes a dog into; or permits a dog to enter; or to remain in an area where dogs are excluded, he will be guilty of an offence. This means that the person must not take a dog onto land or facilities where a dog exclusion zone operates.
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