Dog fouling: Mayor who lost sight backs new council plans

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Dog walker picks up pet's messImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The council can issue £80 fines to anyone caught leaving their pet's mess

The mayor of Derry, who lost the sight in one eye after picking up dog mess as a child, has backed new proposals to tackle dog fouling in the city.

A Derry City and Strabane District Council committee last week approved new dog control measures including a ban on dogs in all council play parks.

They come before full council later this month for ratification

Mayor Michaela Boyle said dog fouling has become an "epidemic" in the district.

The Sinn Féin councillor lost the sight in her left eye at the age of five.

She had been playing in sand close to her family home unaware it was infested with worms from dog faeces.

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Michaela Boyle had been playing in sand aged five when she contracted toxocariasis

"Unfortunately for me I have total blindness in the eye, they were not able to save it at the time," she told BBC Radio Foyle.

She had contracted toxocariasis, a potentially lethal disease carried in dog faeces which can also cause blindness.

She spent "many a long year" wearing eye patches and attending hospital appointments. She remembers being called "all sorts of names at school".

But she said, she was "able to continue with life as it was".

"I am just thankful I have one good eye," she said.

The council proposals include a ban on all dogs in council play parks, while dogs would need to be kept on a lead in all shared use parks.

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The council is exploring the option of DNA testing dogs

Furthermore, the committee approved plans to appoint a council officer with the power to request dog owners to put out-of-control pets on a lead.

Possible DNA testing of fouling to identify dogs is also being researched to determine if it is viable.

The mayor said most dog owners are responsible.

"The majority though are impacted by the minority because of the prevalence" of fouling, she added.

"Now is the time we need to challenge this chronic epidemic around dog fouling.

Lack of Action

"We need to challenge it now head on, and that's why I'm delighted the health committee in council are looking at other strategic ways we look at this, particularly with the DNA testing," she said.

Derry City and Strabane District Council has previously faced criticism over its lack of action against dog owners who do not clean up after their pets.

In 2018 it defended its record on dog fouling after issuing just 22 fines despite receiving more than 5,000 complaints over a three-year period.

Owners can be fined £80 for failing to clean up after their dog.

Last year, the council installed more bins and signs aimed at pet owners in the City Cemetery after receiving complaints animals had been fouling on graves.