Selfish dog owners must clean up act
This is the beginning of the tourism season and the time when Northern Ireland has to make the best impression on visitors to these shores. This is a potentially massive growth area for the province's economy and it must always show its best face to those coming from overseas or over the border from the Republic.
It is encouraging, therefore, to see Belfast City Council stamping down on one of the worst eyesores on the city's streets and recreation areas - dog poo.
Most dog owners are responsible, but there are others who not only let their animals run free - itself an offence - but also refuse to clean up after them.
Bags and scoops to make this task easier are now widely available and there is no excuse for any dog owner refusing to do their duty.
As well as causing a mess, there is a potential danger to health from dog dirt. It contains parasites and bacteria which can cause blindness in children. How could anyone live with the fact that their own thoughtlessness could lead to such serious injury to a child?
The problem of dog fouling is most acute in areas like parks or other places where people gather for recreation. It is inconsiderate in the extreme to deface these areas especially since they are used by families including young babies or toddlers unaware of the dangers that could be underfoot.
While some might think that an £80 fine for a dog doing what comes naturally is a steep penalty, it should be noted that dropping a cigarette end or a piece of chewing gum can attract the same punishment. And it is difficult to argue that butts or gum are as harmful or unpleasant as dog dirt.
Along with the stick the council is offering a carrot by encouraging people to take selfies of themselves cleaning up after their pet and entering a competition to win canine-related prizes. It is a worthy educational exercise.
Of course, there is also a wider litter problem in Northern Ireland where people who visit beauty spots or beaches just leave their rubbish to blow in the wind instead of binning it or taking it home. That is the same sort of attitude as displayed by those who allow their dogs to foul.
The council is to be commended for clamping down on this nuisance and those who offend deserve whatever punishment comes their way. They have been warned.