Over 16,000 patrols since Dog Fouling Initiative commenced in Derry & Strabane
Over 16,000 patrols have been carried out by dog wardens since the Dog Fouling Initiative was introduced to deal with the ongoing matter of dog waste in the City and District.
Members of Derry & Strabane Health and Community Committee received a report updating them on the Dog Control Service.
The initiative saw council employ additional staff to patrol problem areas with the number of instances of dog foul recorded during the second phase of the initiative showing a downward trend.
Out of the 26 dog fouling offences observed, most were due to dog walkers not carrying dog foul bags. There were no instances of dog walkers refusing to clean up after their dog when offered a dog foul bag. Dog foul bags were offered to 5,065 dog walkers to help reinforce the message that the dog owners should always carry bags in case their dog fouls.
The report noted: ‘Casual staff within the Leisure Services section have been undertaking patrols since February, however, the operational hours have been reduced with more targeted patrols carried out from May to reduce costs.
‘The staff resource costs associated with the dog fouling initiative have ranged between £20,000 and £25,000 per month.
‘It is anticipated that the pilot will finish at the end of June to enable staff to return to their substantive roles.’
DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney was disappointed there were only four enforcements for fouling were noted.
“If we are honest, if that’s all the number we can get, then we are failing our citizens who constantly ring us and contact us in relation to dog fouling. I don’t know where we can go with this.”
Former Mayor SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney, who introduced the initiative defended the work the team of wardens carried out.
“During my time as Mayor I was in every DEA across this council District with the dog wardens and I can tell you it’s a difficult job those guys are doing.
“Whilst it is a big issue, we have to remember there is a small team of dog wardens and they can’t be everywhere.
“It’s really about being in the right place at exactly the right time to make sure these penalty notices are issued. Failing that we need members of the public to come forward, then stand over and take it to the very bitter end until the notices are issued. It may only be four, it’s still a difficult job for the dog wardens.”
Seamus Donaghy, Head of Health and Community Wellbeing explained: “We continue to promote responsible dog ownership and we do have a zero-tolerance enforcement policy but we do need to witness the offence to issue a fixed penalty notice and or take prosecution.
“There’s two ways of doing that – either the dog wardens witness the offence or members of the public who witness the offence complete a witness statement and we can take action based on that.
“We have a small team of dog wardens, we did anticipate there would be a lot more fixed penalties issued based on the additional patrols and there were 16,000 patrols in the last couple of months, but that just proves you have to witness the offence and those members of staff didn’t witness many offences so it’s going to be very difficult irrespective of the number of staff on the ground.”
Mr Donaghy also informed Members the initiative will be scaled back at the end of this month.
“We felt the survey gave us enough data and information to help improve the service,” he said. “We are also mindful in terms of the recovery of other council services and the need to facilitate staff to go back to their previous role but obviously we can keep that under review.”
From April 2020 to March 2021 eight fixed penalties were issued for having no licence and 15 for straying.
The Dog Control Service has dealt with 1,347 complaints with regards to strays, they issued 5,438 warning letters, issued 8,203 licences and dealt with 32 dog attacks.
Since the introduction of the new Dog Control Orders from May 5 2021 council dog control staff have proactively approached 1,492 dog walkers and advised them of the new controls in place throughout the council area, however there were 20 instances when dog walkers took their dogs onto areas that dogs are excluded from including football pitches and play parks.
The Council continues to work cross-departmentally to tackle the issues of irresponsible dog ownership.
By Gillian Anderson
Local Democracy Reporter