Council in pink with its plan to spray-paint dog dirt and shame owners
It is an issue that causes a real stink, but now there's a bizarre solution to tackling dog dirt – by spraying it bright pink
The colourful idea by staff at Strabane District Council is intended to draw attention to the problem and remind dog owners of their responsibilities.
The scheme, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, was launched this week in response to pressure from the public over dog fouling.
Council chairman Ruairi McHugh said there was a serious message behind the campaign.
"This initiative is aimed at getting local residents to notice and report irresponsible dog owners in their area," he said.
"It is an innovative approach to address a very serious issue. While Strabane district is no worse than any other area in Northern Ireland, dog fouling is a real concern for our residents.
"Unfortunately a small minority don't seem to get the message.
"The council has listened to the concerns of local people and is adopting a new and dynamic way of addressing it."
Last October a survey by Tidy NI found over a quarter of play areas, parks and sports pitches across Northern Ireland were affected by fouling – some 38 out of 134 facilities.
The scheme in Strabane involves council staff spraying excrement with pink vegetable paint and erecting signs urging residents to report the dog owners.
After three or four days, the council's street cleaning team will clear away the mess if it has not already been lifted by the offender.
Mr McHugh said it was unacceptable that some owners still didn't clean up after their dogs.
"Quite frankly, anyone who still thinks that it is acceptable to leave animal excrement behind for children to step or fall into shouldn't have a dog in the first place," he added. "This pink spray paint and the signage will make the mess really obvious. It will prevent local children standing in it.
"Irresponsible dog owners need to get the message that it is disgusting wherever it is left, and that we think that they should be picking it up."
Council chief technical services officer Malcolm Scott said an extra warden had been appointed.
"The dog wardens will be reinforcing the message to dog owners that they should always pick up after their dog," he said.
"If they refuse to pay heed, they will be prosecuted and may face a court appearance with a maximum penalty of a £1,000 fine."
Dog fouling is both unpleasant and dangerous. The biggest threat to public health is toxocariasis, an infection of the roundworm toxocara canis. The eggs of the parasite can be found in soil or sand contaminated with faeces and if swallowed, result in infection that can last up to two years. People who do not clean up after their dog face an £80 fine.