Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)
MEA Councillors meet behind closed doors following previous backlash over ban
Mid and East Antrim councillors have met behind closed doors at Larne Town Hall to discuss a review of dog orders which could see the introduction of further restrictions.
It is the first in a series of meetings to discuss a review of dog control orders ahead of a public consultation.
In 2015, controversial proposals to introduce dog control orders within Mid and East Antrim were scrapped after a public consultation announced by the local authority caused a backlash among residents with thousands signing a petition calling for the controversial proposals to be rescinded.
One said at the time that the process was “horrendously flawed from the outset” and that “any future projects should include affected groups from the outset and not have to react to public pressure at a late stage”.
Just three fixed penalty notices were issued for littering and dog fouling in Mid and East Antrim during 2019/20. Dog fouling complaints dropped from 195 in 2018/19 to 112 during 2019/20 and 104 in 2020/21.
In April, the borough council brought in an enforcement team from Waste Investigations Support and Enforcement (WISE) that has been given powers to issue fixed penalty notices for littering and dog fouling and will be targeting “hotspot areas” across Mid and East Antrim during a 12-month pilot.
There have been 2,076 fixed penalty notices issued since April 12.
Anyone observed failing to pick up after their dogs or dropping litter will be issued with an on the spot £80 Fixed Penalty Notice.
Commenting after last week’s meeting, Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly said:
“We are a dog-friendly area with lots of areas in Larne where dogs can be exercised off lead but we need to balance that with enforcement against irresponsible dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets and have dogs kept on leads in some public areas.”
East Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA John Stewart said:
“I welcome the council committing to consulting with the public but in reality tinkering where dogs can and cannot go off their leads in a review of Dog Control Orders will not radically change things.
“The vast majority of dog owners are responsible and considerate. However, there is a minority who clearly do not care about rules and regulations. Local government needs to work with Stormont departments to come up with innovative ways of dealing with the never ending problem of dog fouling.
“DNA testing of dog poo to identify culprits is often suggested and is something I support. However, the most immediate problem which exists is with unlicensed dogs.”
A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said:
“In July 2021, council commenced a review of the existing Dog Control Orders which were implemented in 2016.
“In order to best prepare for the statutory public consultation period, a number of elected member workshops were programmed, the first of which took place on 31 August.
“Upon completion of these workshops. officers will prepare for a full public consultation which, as it did in 2015, will include a number of open information sessions, in addition to provision of information our our website and social media channels.
“The issuing of fines for littering and dog foul is a separate matter to the planned Dog Control Order review.”