Irresponsible dog owners have fallen foul of the public after failing to pick up dog mess across Larne, including outside primary schools.
The offenders have attracted a tidal wave of criticism on social media after a concerned local woman highlighted the issue on the Larne Through A Lens Facebook page.
After Caroline Hetherington posted a request to dog owners to clean up after their pets, the site was inundated with frustrated locals kicking up a stink after similar experiences.
Corran Primary School, Larne and Inver Primary School, Toreagh Primary School, Seacourt, Brustin Brae Road, Bellair Park, Ferris Park, the Wyncairn estate, Carnfunnock, Bay Road, Chaine Memorial Road, Branch Road, Sandy Bay and Gleno are just some of the areas said to be affected by the problem.
Parents were particularly concerned with the health implications for local children, and described the situation as “disgusting.”
Dewi Russell stated: “Some dog owners still let their dogs poop loose and don’t clean after them, around Larne and Inver Primary School it’s still visible, and it’s very dangerous for the little ones.”
Catherine McAuley added: “The footpath outside Toreagh Primary School is disgusting too, dog s**t on the footpath daily!”
“Kids and parents have to negotiate their way through it getting to and from the school.”
“Seacourt and the road to Corran School are a disgrace!” said Maria Wilson.
“Penalties should be stricter.”
Several social media users also raised concerns about the impact on private home owners who repeatedly find dog mess outside their houses.
“There’s someone who lets their dog do its business right outside my front gate,” said local mum Lynsey Gorman.
“It’s vile. If I ever catch them I’ll be having strong words.
“I have a three-year-old and a baby in a pram.
“Trying to manoeuvre a pram and keep her away from it to just leave our premises is ridiculous!
“If I could find out who was doing this in front of my house, I’d start leaving my son’s dirty nappies at their door.
“See how they like it.”
Lauren Murray added: “I think if you’re not going to be responsible for your dog’s mess then you shouldn’t have a dog.
“The Linn Glen is awful for it too.”
Many commentators felt that part of the problem was a lack of council-supplied dog waste disposal bins around the town, and called for existing bins to be emptied more frequently.
Claire Crawford stated: “There are not enough bins around.
“I find myself carrying it around with a bin nowhere in sight.
“Hence why a lot of people lift the poo but chuck the bag (disgusting).
“They should be on every street as I’m sure there lives at least one dog on each street.”
Several people called for harsher penalties to be implemented for dog owners who failed to live up to their responsibilities.
Norman Gray, who described Larne’s footpaths as “like an obstacle course with dog mess,” added: “It seems to have got worse, one has to ask what the new super council plan to do to combat these dog owners who don’t care about the mess they leave behind?”
Ellen Sparseus suggested closer monitoring of popular local walkways to detect and punish offenders.
“Maybe some security cameras would be good along the walking paths, not only to get the owners to be more careful but to have proof of who they are,” she said.
Steve Crawford suggested that instead of imposing fines the council should make irresponsible dog owners clean dog excrement from pathways.
Dog owner Bill Guiller, who is one of the administrators of the Larne Through a Lens Facebook page, contacted the paper directly to voice his concerns.
Bill condemned the fact that some dog waste disposal bins had been left to “overflow” with bags of excrement.
“If as a dog owner I am responsible I also think council have responsibility to empty them,” he stated.
“Dog mess is a big issue and the council should be brought to heel.
“The council itself should be fined if they don’t empty the bins frequently enough.
“Anyone who lets their dog crap all over the place should be fined, and perhaps the fine should be increased, but when you open a dog bin to put in the dog poo they are stinking and overflowing.
“People are forced to leave the dog mess sitting on top of the bin or beside the bin.
“Some people say that you should just put the dog mess in a normal bin but I don’t think that’s very hygienic.”
Bill, who is a keen photographer, also fears that the infrequent changing of dog waste bins could leave visitors who come to enjoy the scenery around the Larne area unimpressed.
“Last summer there was a charity walk along the promenade,” he recalled.
“It was a hot day and everyone had to walk past a dog litter bin which was absolutely overflowing and very smelly.
“What sort of impression of Larne does that leave people with?
“Dog owners are rate payers too and we are paying for these bins to be emptied.
“People around the town are frustrated and want to see something done to tackle the situation,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, a Mid and East Antrim Borough Council spokesperson revealed that only two fixed penalties of £50 each have been issued for dog fouling in Larne in 2015/16. There were no prosecutions as both people paid the fines.
The spokesperson said that a new Assistant Environmental Warden would start work on February 1 and would work earlier mornings and later evenings on a rota basis to better match need.
“That means there will then be two wardens, as there is already an Environmental Warden in post,” he continued.
The council is drawing up suggested patrols routes for this warden based on complaints received and is asking the public for their input. The council says it is willing to offer an information/training session for residents and councillors when the new warden is in post.
The spokesperson continued: “There are 150 litter bins and 130 dog foul bins in the legacy Larne Borough. Residents can put dog foul in either type of bin as long as it is bagged. Half of these bins (those known to be well used) are checked daily and 50 per cent (less well used ones) are checked twice a week. Each request for additional dog and litter bins is assessed individually.”