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DNA testing could be used to catch foul offenders

DNA testing of dog excrement is to be considered by council in a bid to tackle the rising levels of fouling on streets across the district.

Calling for the council to look at DNA testing as a way to help catch the foul offenders independent councillor Paul Gallagher said the issue has become a major health hazard.

He explained, “It is all round Strabane town, in the estates, our sports grounds. It’s impacting immensely on walkers and runners – people out trying to have a health regime, they are running in a chicane around dog fouling. And wheelchair users are ending up with it on their hands, it’s a real health hazard.

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“Council measures thus far are very limited, they have centred around prosecutions, mobile CCTV, and dog wardens, but there are other avenues to be explored. Pilots schemes throughout Europe using DNA testing have been very successful and I propose the council seek out a presentation into this proven effective measure. We as a council should be taking a proactive approach to this issue which is impacting on people’s lives. Responsible dog-owners won’t mind one bit, It’s the irresponsible ones who are creating major, major problems.”

Alderman Maurice Devenney, DUP, said the matter had become a really serious issue. He said, “We have tried to address it, but it appears as we walk around our street and sports facilities that we have failed. We brought dog wardens on board and we thought this could addressed the issues. I have asked for a report detailing how many fines gave been issued and I think that’s where we really start. We need to know how many fines have been issued since the dog wardens have been brought in.”

Responding chief executive John Kelpie said, “Council has been very proactive regarding this issues – in terms of education, CCTV, additional resources, dog bins, cleansing etc. To a greater or lesser degree some of them in certain places at certain times have been successful, but the problem still persists.

“On the back of this discussion we will bring back a joined up report on the measures that have taken place over the last number of years, the number of fines etc… and take a renewed and a refreshed look at other options that haven’t been considered – including those that have been mentioned here with DNA testing.”

Cllr Gallagher welcomed the commitment and added, “It’s important that we hear first-hand from some of the service providers. Not to dismiss DNA testing off-hand because there’s a cost. We can hone the system so much that the cost is diminished year-on-year. Wardens, CCTV etc are reoccurring costs. We should investigate DNA testing and have an open mind about it.”

A council spokesperson confirmed that were 48 incidents of dog fouling reported in the Strabane district over the last year (Jan-Dec 2019).

They added, “Sion Mills would have been regarded as a problem area during this period, though improvements through responsible dog ownership have been witnessed.”

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