That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Litter Pollution Act 1997 to make it an offence for a person in charge of a dog in a public area to fail to produce a suitable bag or instrument to properly dispose of dog faeces when requested to do so by a dog warden, litter warden, or member of An Garda Síochána.
I have co-signed this Bill with Deputy Funchion. The Litter Pollution (Amendment) (Dog Litter Control) Bill 2019 amends section 22 of the Litter Pollution Act 1997 to make it an offence for a person in charge of a dog in a public area to fail to produce a suitable bag or instrument to dispose properly of dog faeces when requested to do so by a dog warden, litter warden or member of An Garda Síochána. This is proactive legislation to tackle the problem of dog faeces litter in our communities.
The purpose of this Bill is to impress upon those in charge of dogs the importance of picking up their pet's faeces when in public by making it an offence not to produce a suitable bag or instrument when in control of a dog. This would make the possession of a dog litter bag a similar requirement to that of a leash when one is in control of a dog.
Some people have said that this is not a serious issue. For me, it is a public health issue and we need to change behaviour regarding dog litter. The issue of dog litter left by a minority of irresponsible dog owners is repeatedly raised with me by constituents and residents' associations in Dublin South-West. I am sure it is the same in other areas. It is a serious public health issue as dog waste carries disease.
Toxocariasis is an illness caused by the parasitic roundworm which lives in the intestines of dogs and cats. Human contact with the eggs produced by the roundworm and excreted in a dog's faeces can cause fever, cough or wheezing, enlarged liver, rash, swollen lymph nodes and even blindness. It is life changing and almost impossible to become free of. It is particularly dangerous for children and pregnant women or those with a low immune system.
Despite the introduction of the law making it an offence not to pick up after one's dog, our parks, footpaths, beaches and community areas are still littered with dog excrement. Current legislation is not fit for purpose. This is partially because wardens must actually witness a dog fouling and the dog owner leaving behind the dog's waste in order to pursue a prosecution.
A small minority of dog owners simply do not give a damn what their dog does and have no real fear of being caught or penalised under current legislation.
This new legislation we are introducing is proactive and makes it easier for wardens and An Garda Síochána to impose fines on irresponsible dog owners.
This is not anti-dog owner legislation. It is about being proactive and introducing legislation that is pro-health and trying to eliminate this practice. This is just one step, but it has the potential to be transformative for our community. We need to ensure that local authorities hire more dog and litter wardens and that they are more proactive in our communities. It should also be about providing more bins in which to place the dog litter.
This issue is raised in all constituencies so I hope all parties will see the serious public health implications involved and support this legislation. It is time to clamp down on irresponsible dog owners who continue to pollute and foul our communities.