Dog foul DNA plan is binned
Proposals to create a DNA database to sniff out pets guilty of dog fouling have been rejected by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.
The plans by the local authority would have seen dog poo forensically examined to locate the animal’s owner.
Dog fouling in the authority increased over the 12 months from 371 incidents in 2019/20 to 404 for 2020/21.
But the idea was rejected after it emerged it would cost £766,000 to create the database for the council and an additional £28,000 for operating costs.
The scheme would have been similar to those used in detecting criminal activity, with swabs taken to link the dog fouling back to owners who would then face a fine for failing to clean up the mess.
Councillors at an Environmental Services committee unanimously agreed to shelve the “unenforceable plans”.
However, members called for ‘a stronger message to be put out to the public’, with several proposals including private enforcement, pavement stencils and tougher fines to be implemented.
Currently councils in Northern Ireland can issue an offender with a Fix Penalty Notice of £80, which is reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days.
Deputy Mayor Jenny Palmer said the pricing surrounding the DNA database was “a scandal”.
She added: “I think if you go on one of the main pathways [across the council district] it will be the same dog along that route that is fouling.
“It would be very expensive but I think going forward in terms of the consultation it would be an opportunity for us as a council to attempt to put the [fine] penalties up to more than £80 and make it painful for dog owners.
“We also need more enforcement officers because I think that is the way that this council will be able to increase the number of dog fouling in Lisburn and Castlereagh.”
Meanwhile, Alliance councillor Martin Gregg urged council enforcement officials to issue more fines to offenders rather than ‘kicking the problem down the road’.
“We need to dramatically increase the number of people that we have caught. In one of the last reports on dog fouling there were 96 complaints and seven fines issued. If that goes up on a poster then people are going to take a look at it and think that they’re not going to get caught.”
Leitrim County Council in the Republic of Ireland revealed last month that it would introduce DNA testing in a bid to help identify owners who fail to pick up their dog’s waste.
Dog owners in the Republic are being asked to cooperate in allowing a sample of saliva to be taken from their dog
Current legislation in Northern Ireland, however, means that the council would not have the authority by law to enforce a DNA sample on any dog owner.