Dog fouling across the borough has become so bad that teachers are having to remove children’s shoes and wash them before they can begin lessons in the classroom.
This was a claim made at Monday night’s meeting of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council when the issue was again was the subject for debate.
There was high praise for the work of dog wardens in the area and calls too for more resources to deal with the problem.
But the underlying thread was that it is the public who are responsible for cleaning up after their pets and ensuring the borough is kept foul-free.
The debate was initiated by DUP Councillor Carla Lockhart, who expressed her concerns over the practice of spray painting dog foul in luminous colours – a tactic employed to try and highlight to communities and high and unacceptable levels of dog fouling taking place.
But the councillor told the meeting: “People are saying, why are they out spraying it instead of lifting it?”
Councillor Lockhart said the council needed to be taking “much more robust action” and she questioned the logic of spraying dog mess with bright, luminous paint.
“As a councillor it’s one of the areas of work we always get hammered on,” she added.
Councillor Lockhart was informed by a council official that it was not part of the direct action used to combat dog fouling, but “an experiment” to highlight the problem to local communities.
The DUP representative praised the “good work” of local dog wardens but added: “We need to really think through some of our tactics. It’s not a negative attack on those who are trying to stop it.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Brendan Curran called on the public to come forward and report people who they see allowing their dogs to foul and failing to bag it and bin it.
He said: “We can employ more dog wardens. We can fill the streets with dog wardens. But how much of our rates do we want to put to that? Because that’s what it boils down to at the end of the day – it’s cost.”
SDLP Councillor Declan McAlinden said dog fouling was “becoming an epidemic in the borough”.
He said in recent weeks he had been contacted by a number of teachers who had complained about the problem.
“They are literally taking the shoes off the kids in the classroom and washing them before they are able to commence lessons in the classroom,” he told the meeting. “It’s totally unacceptable and a real health and safety issue.”
One local councillor – DUP representative Gareth Wilson – had availed of the opportunity last week to accompany the local dog warden as he went about his duties and described it as “an incredibly beneficial morning”.
He said he had seen the challenges dog wardens face and what they have to encounter on a daily basis.
Councillor Wilson – who highlighted the excellent work being done by dog wardens – said what was required was a “wider discussion in relation to the resourcing” of the dog warden department.
“I think we need more people on the ground,” he added.
Ulster Unionist Councillor Jim Speers commented: “I would be interested to know how many prosecutions there have been in relation to it.”
He said he had received a “fair number of complaints” regarding dog fouling in Richhill and Markethill and also suggested that dog wardens should be “moved around”.
Councillor Speers added: “Nine times out of 10 it’s the same people. They do know the dog warden and when the dog warden’s about and rest assured they are on their guard.”
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