A CRACKDOWN on dog fouling has been launched across the borough with financial penalties set to rise by 160%.
Ards and North Down Council is to raise the maximum fixed penalty notice to £200 while those who drop fouling bags will face a maximum fine of £2,500 in line with littering laws.
People face court action if they ignore their fines, the council has warned.
The move comes as the council acts to improve the cleanliness and overall environment of the area, as well as promote responsible dog ownership.
The council’s Neighbourhood Environment Team is responsible for enforcing laws on dog fouling can act against those committing the criminal offence of failing to remove dog faeces.
There are some exemptions to the legislation, however, being ignorant to the fact that a dog has fouled in public is not a defence.
“It is important to note that as stated by the regulations, being unaware of a dog’s defecation or not having a device or other suitable means of removing the faeces is not a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with the order,” said a council spokesman.
“Council officers also have lawful powers to obtain the names and addresses from individuals after an offence has been committed. The failure or refusal to provide this information constitutes a further offence.”
He said walkers may see council officers out and about as they continue to actively patrol areas and investigate complaints ‘with a view to gathering evidence and enforce the legislation through the issue of a £200 fixed penalty notice’.
Dog owners whose pets are caught, however, do have the option of paying within 14 days, securing a reduction of the fine to £150.
“It should be noted that if the fixed penalty fine is not paid, a court summons will be issued where, if convicted, a maximum fine of £1,000 could be imposed.
“If the dog poop has been left in a bag, this is treated as littering, and a maximum fine of £2,500 could be imposed if convicted in court,” the statement confirmed.
The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Karen Douglas, said the increase in fines was intended to act as a ‘deterrent to those who continue to flout the law and not pick up after their pets’.
“We all have a responsibility to keep our streets and public spaces clean and safe for everyone to enjoy,” she said.
“Dog owners, in particular, have a responsibility to clean up after their pets. We want to create a borough that is clean and welcoming for everyone. It is not only the law, it is the right thing to do.”
The council said it is ‘working hard to promote responsible dog ownership and encourage people to clean up after their pets’ through initiatives including ongoing educational campaigns.