Since I became a Councillor, the issue of dog dirt on our streets and footpaths of the capital city keeps coming up.  Because of the areas that I represent, most of the complaints on the topic have been in reference to Portobello (residential streets generally), Sandymount Promenade, Dodder walkway (various locations), South Wall, and Ringsend (Thorncastle St, Bridge St etc), but it is a problem across the city. I have made numberous representations to the city council about individual problem areas, and I am working to ensure that the Council take the problem seriously.

Dog Dirt

1. The punitive approach

Litter wardens have the power and responsibility for fining the owners of dogs who leave their faeces behind (under Section 22 of the Litter Pollution Act). In order to successfully fine a person they must have a case that would stack up in court, with full proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In practice this would mean eye-witness evidence of an actual act of faeces being deposited and not picked up.


This is one of the reasons both dog dirt and casual littering offences are so rarely prosecuted. From what I see with litter fines generally, virtually no one is ever fined for dropping a sweet wrapper – almost all of our successful prosecutions are for full bags of household litter being left in a public place. This is because the number of litter wardens which would be needed to actually catch people in the act and have evidence would be impractically large. The same applies to dogs – the chances of a warden being in the right place at the right time is so low as to be negligible. And having a warden present would in all likelihood not lead to offences being detected – it would lead to dog owners seeing the warden and making sure the dog didn’t do anything until out of sight of the warden. Which goes some of the way towards explaining why there were only 3 (yes, 3), fines collected for dog fouling between 2007 and 2011 by Dublin City Council.


Dog wardens do not have a direct role in tackling dog dirt, but they do indirectly deal with it by keeping strays and untended/uncontrolled dogs off the streets.


The idea of using CCTV was mooted. Dublin City Council’s own CCTV system is used for monitoring traffic and cannot be used to monitor individuals for other purposes. I suppose in theory where a litter warden believes that an offence was committed they could ask a business owner whose CCTV covers the spot for video, but the time and money that would be involved in trying to prosecute a dog owner on the basis of CCTV footage would be extremely high.


As a Council we have made a representation to the Minister for the Environment for an amendment to the litter Acts which would combine the punitive element with the encouragement/socialisation element considered below, asking it to be an offence for someone to be in control of a dog in public without a poop-scoop on their person. Litter wardens could fine any dog owner who didn’t carry one, which would mean almost all would carry one. There would be no guarantee (beyond the current offence under Section 22) that they would use it, but it would both make them way more likely to use it and as no one would have an excuse for not picking up after their dog it would create a general positive peer/social pressure to clean up after one’s dog. It wouldn’t solve the problem, but it might change habits and attitudes and thereby change how certain dog owners act.


I should mention however that if someone is asked for their name and address, a litter warden has no way of knowing whether it is true or not. He can call a Garda to get the Garda to verify their identity, which would be an option if they refuse to give a name and address or if they give one that is obviously fake. It is not fatal to the punitive approach, but adds another administrative weakness.


2. The cleaning approach

We are currently negotiating the overall budget for the city, and expect to be able to increase the funding for street cleaning to around €32 million. I have to admit to being surprised when I first saw the figure, but I gather that in the last 5 years or so it was cut from €38 million (2008) to around €29 million (2012) – I am relatively new to the Council so I do need to re-check the 2008 figure. For that, we create a hierarchy of streets. The commercial ones get cleaned every day (including footpaths). Residential streets get cleaned 4 times a year. There are categories in between – more information is available here – http://www.dublincity.ie/WaterWasteEnvironment/Waste/Pages/SS.aspx

You can check any street here – http://www.dublincity.ie/StreetSweeping/


More cleaning is definitely part of the answer. I therefore voted in favour of an amendment to the City Manager’s draft budget for 2013, thereby increasing by €460,000 the funds available to the city for cleaning for 2013.


3. The preventative approach

For a while the city was making free scooper bags available at dispensers with special bins on a pilot basis a few years ago, but it was not a success. I gather there was no reduction in dog dirt in the area they were piloted it, (and additional illegal dumping took place at the bins). It may have been that those who would have brought their own bag and been diligent relied on the free ones, but those who wouldn’t have brought their own bags wouldn’t go find a nearby dispenser either. It was not considered a success and was not made permanent. The manager in our area summarised it as – Despite Dublin City Council providing free poop-scoops, erecting anti-dog fouling signs and installing approx 100 dog bins throughout the city, approx 100 complaints were still received in Customer Services through the litter hotline in 2009 and 2010.


4. The social pressure approach

As part of the earlier pilot above, signs stating that dog fouling is prohibited were erected. Again, the effect was minimal if any. However, I don’t believe we will see real change until allowing your dog to defecate in the street is seen for what it is, a dirty negligent act that puts children’s health at risk, that degrades the environment, and that lowers the quality of life for all users of the public realm. If people are made to realise that it is the social equivalent of randomly dropping a large lump of faeces outside someone’s front door, we might see some progress. Public opinion, peer pressure and social norms can actually have a strong effect. So signs telling people about fines might not be as effective as signs telling them that it is dirty and dangerous. Hence the new poster campaign (see image).


5. The Mixed Approach – a new pilot

The Council is currently trying a new approach that uses some of what I have described above in a few neighbourhoods across the city. There are new street signs with a positive message “Bag the Poo – Any Bin will do”, which also appears on street bins. There are new cleaning machines with a vacuum specifically designed for specifically cleaning up dog dirt. More details are below. We haven’t yet had an evaluation of whether it is considered a success or not.


(Without wanting to overcomplicate it, there is also the problem that bins in parks are emptied by the parks section and bins on streets by the bin section and both have been known to voice various objections to having to empty bins with loose dog dirt in them. I understand that both now accept that it is in their job description…)


Having said all that, there must be other means we can use to tackle this. If anyone has cost-effective proposals for the more general city-wide problem, I am more than happy to hear them and to work to get them implemented if it seems that they will be effective.





Question to City Manager City Council Meeting 05/03/2012


To ask the Manager what measures are in place to tackle dog dirt in the city,and to

ask him to introduce programmes to tackle it from every angle, including education, public information, deterrence through fines, availability of bags and bins, street cleaning and other possible measures as it is a serious problem across the city.




Waste Management Services clean dog fouling from footpaths as part of their regular

duties. It is intended to explore ways of effectively removing dog foul from public places as part of an anti-dog fouling campaign which will run in 2012.


Due to the difficulties of enforcement of Section 22 of the Litter Pollution Acts there has not been an increase in the amount of fines issued. Waste Management Services in conjunction with a number of Local Authorities in the region have made submissions to the Minister for the Environment, Community and local Government to amend Section 22 of the Litter Pollution Act as follows:


• The Person in Charge of the Dog shall carry a poop-scoop at all times.


A submission on amendments to the Litter Pollution Acts will be forwarded to the Minister for the Environment in the coming weeks.




Section 16(b) of the Control of Dogs Act 1986 grants dog wardens the power to seize and impound dogs for offences under the Control of Dogs Act. While dog fouling is not covered under control of Dogs legislation the warden service can deal indirectly with the problem through its powers under Section 11 of the Control of Dogs Act 1986 to seize and impound stray and unaccompanied dogs from public places. 840 dogs were seized under this legislation in 2011.




The Lord Mayor of Dublin , Naoise Ó’Muiri will launch the City Council’s Anti-dog fouling awareness campaign on the 10th July 2012 at Clontarf Promenade

Dog fouling is an issue that has been on top of people’s mind as the worst form of litter and has been one of the top issues of complaint from members of the public in recent times. Dog owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets in public areas, but unfortunately some ignore their responsibilities. As dog fouling has negative health implications it is imperative that we strive to reduce the quantity of it on our streets and parks.


Toxocariasis is a disease found in animal faeces and is caused by the eggs of the roundworm toxocara. These can be passed from dogs to humans through contact with animal faeces and contaminated soil. Children are particularly at risk and infection can lead to illness and even partial loss of sight. It is an entirely preventable health risk and the main reason that dog owners should clean up after their pets. Freshly deposited faeces are not infectious because toxocara eggs do not become infectious for at least 2 – 3 weeks after the faeces have been deposited. Therefore there is no risk of catching toxocariasis whilst clearing up immediately after your dog.


Dublin City Council’s Litter Wardens enforce the Litter Pollution Act, 1997-2009. Section 22 (1) of the Act states that ‘Where faeces has been deposited by a dog in any place to which this subsection applies, the person in charge of the dog shall immediately remove the faeces and shall ensure that it is properly disposed of in a suitable sanitary manner.’ The maximum fine amounts to €150. In respect of the fine not being paid, court proceedings can be initiated where on summary conviction, a maximum fine of €4,000 can be imposed.


Dublin City Council has started an initiative to combat the dog fouling problem.

An awareness campaign will be launched at 5 locations in the city


Clontarf Promenade,

Thorncastle St, Ringsend,

Mountjoy Square Park,

Grattan Crescent (Open Green Space – Inchicore,

Finglas- Mellows Road.


Litter Wardens will distribute poop-scoops to dog walkers week before the launch of campaign

Anti dog fouling signs will be erected in the vicinity of the launch location

Anti dog fouling signs will be distributed to Residents/Community/Environmental groups for erection at locations to be agreed by them.

Posters giving information on where to dispose of dog faeces will be placed on public litter bins

Machine to be piloted on cleaning dog faeces

Litter Wardens will patrol area to enforce Litter Pollution Acts following campaign.