DNA testing plans to catch owners over dog fouling

DNA testing plans to catch owners over dog fouling

24 June 2020

DOG owners who fail to clean up after their pets could soon find themselves in court after local politicians agreed to investigate the potential of using DNA testing to catch offenders.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council officers have been instructed to examine the merits of testing dog dirt in a bid to trace animals whose owners allow them to use public areas as open air toilets.

Under the scheme, a sample of dog dirt would be taken for analysis to trace the identity of the animal, with the owner being subsequently prosecuted.

Agreement for officers to research the DNA issue was given at last week’s meeting of the local authority’s Neighbourhood Services Committee following a proposal tabled by Rowallane councillor Patrick Brown.

Dog dirt poses a major health risk, especially to children, who could potentially lose their sight as a result of coming into contact with it.

Cllr Brown said there was a need to consider innovative ways of tackling the issue which has been raised on a regular basis by elected representatives across the local authority’s seven DEAs.

He is keen for the local authority to investigate the viability of using DNA testing in a bid to identify offenders and aid enforcement officers to dish out fines, suggesting that council officers draw upon best practice from other organisations who have introduced such a scheme in a bid to crack down on the dog fouling issue.

Council officials say they will need to understand the time and resources required to implement such a scheme before compiling a report on its potential implementation.

Cllr Billy Walker has welcomed the decision to investigate the DNA issue and says he cannot understand why dog owners to do not clean up after their pets.

He said that the problem was district-wide and hoped that offenders will end up being prosecuted.

“I am an advocate of naming and shaming people on this particular issue but it is not a road which the council has been keen to go down. However, if we use DNA technology to catch dog owners who allow their pets to foul public areas, their identity will be made public if they end up in court,” he continued.

“Dog fouling problem is a highly contentious issue and, without doubt, one of the single most complained about problems across our district. It is something that we have not yet to got to grips with, but perhaps the new initiative under consideration will change that.”

Cllr Walker said it was important to remember that the overwhelming majority of dog owners across the district cleaned up after their pets, but there was a hardcore who did not.

He added: “We have talked about this issue for years and the problem has not diminished in any way. People are looking to politicians and the council for leadership and it is vital that we do everything we can to address this problem.”

Another Rowallane councillor, Kathryn Owen, has welcomed agreement to pursue the DNA issue, explaining that while this particular suggestion had been been brought to the council many times in the past, it was always rejected.

She said that going down the route of DNA testing would remove the need for CCTV cameras to be erected to capture video evidence or the need for witness statements to nab offenders. 

Cllr Owen said that despite the refusal to examine DNA testing in the past, there is now a “change in tone and acceptance” to explore this particular option.

She added: “I was delighted to support this course of action proposed by Cllr Patrick Brown as something drastic needs to be done.

“It is a terrible shame that it has come to this. Council officers are now going to compile a report for the Neighbourhood Services Committee to decide on the viability of using DNA technology to catch offenders.”