‘As a five year old I lost my sight due to toxocara,’ says Derry Mayor Michaela Boyle as Council votes to look into using DNA

The Derry & Strabane Mayor Michaela Boyle, has spoken candidly of being blinded after contracting toxocariasis through infected dog excrement when she was just five.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 4:36 pm

The Mayor said action needed to be taken to tackle dog fouling as councillors unanimously agreed to explore using DNA to catch irresponsible pet owners.

Speaking at the Council’s monthly meeting for January she told councillors she knew only too well about the dangers posed by those who don’t clean up after their animals.

“I think I’m probably the most qualified person in this chamber to speak on this issue. As a young girl of five years of age I lost the sight of my left eye due to toxicara/toxoplasmosis which is the infected worms that you get through dog fouling.

“So that’s the reason why I’m blind in my left eye. I know all too well the serious implications that dog fouling has.

“A lot more can be done. It is an educational issue in terms of making sure that people in the community are well aware of it,” she said.

Colr. Boyle made the revelation after Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher proposed Council consider using dog DNA to track down lazy dog walkers. He said this approach had been tried and tested in London, Spain and other parts of Europe.

“What I would like to propose is that Council seek out a presentation into council around a proven, effective measure and that is around DNA. This Council has discussed it before but it’s never fully investigated,” he said.

DUP Alderman David Ramsey said: “DNA seems to be the way forward but the issue there seems to be cost again. We’re struggling with our rates as it is this time round as well but this is the biggest problem we have and it is unbelievable how blatant people are. They don’t care.”

The Mayor suggested an awareness campaign.

“I would be fully supportive of a marketing campaign and I think that’s where it needs to be, a marketing campaign, be it through media, print media, social media or TV adverts. I think we’d all be in agreement with that. It’s a very, very serious issue for those who have been affected, particularly when it comes to the issue of children ingesting worms if they have dog dirt on their hands and the serious implications that can cause,” she said.

People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin said: “I’m sorry that happened to you and it really brings home how serious this is because I think a lot of people are resigned to not being able to do anything about it. But I think that’s the kind of story that could have a big, big impact on people. If people actually understand the consequences of dog fouling.”