‘Dog fouling is minor compared with human littering’

Following a debate about dogs on beaches, county councillors in Kerry have supported restrictions on dog access to 14 blue-flag beaches. The Irish Times invited readers this week to share their views on the subject. This is a selection of the responses.

We are responsible owners of a well-behaved, obedient dog who is part of our family, and who all love going to the beach. By banning one member of our family from a day out on the beach would, in effect, ban us as well. As self-catering hosts for overseas visitors, we offer a pet-friendly home from home. Over the years the one consistent complaint we receive about Ireland from our guests (particularly UK visitors) is that Ireland is such an unfriendly dog country to visit and that’s why they wouldn’t return. Responsible dog owners who clean up after their pooch should not be penalised. Ireland is known as an unfriendly dog destination and that needs to change. John Wallace, Co Kerry

Humans don’t even disguise anymore their breathtaking arrogance when it comes to the natural world. This isn’t a world exclusively for humans in which animals are mere observers. It’s their world too. Maybe ask dogs what they think about humans on beaches instead. They’re by far the biggest polluters and annoyance in any case. Kevin Hopkins

I find the vast majority of dog owners are conscious of picking up fouling (including myself). I run [on] the beach most days and rarely, if ever, see fouling along the water line. Paul Harris, Dublin

We’re living in Australia and the majority of beaches here have an off-leash dog area and areas of beach where dogs can be walked on a lead. On all beaches, dogs must be kept on a lead between the monitored section of the beach and some beaches have sections where no dogs are allowed (wildlife protected zones). Another measure here for the most popular beaches is a restriction to the dog walking hours (allowed before 10am and after 5pm) during peak seasons when the beaches are extremely busy. We love taking the dog to the beach because it’s a great day out for the whole family and I think the restrictions in Australia give a good balance between dog owners’ rights and other beach users. Aisling Kelly

I’m a dog owner. I do feel that dogs should not be on blue-flag beaches over summer months during the day. However, there should be some shoreline allocated to people who want to walk their dogs. David Gleeson, Co Galway

Many Irish beaches are home to a variety of birds and other wildlife. Some beaches are even parts of EU protected Special Protection Areas designated to conserve rare and endangered birds. Dogs pose one of the major disturbances to birds and other wildlife using these coastal habitats. Dogs cause the birds to change their behaviour and move more frequently, putting them under extra stress, and pose a particular threat to ground nesting birds who nest either on the beach themselves or in nearby coastal areas. This biodiversity conservation issue is another really important consideration in the debate around dogs on beaches, alongside the interference posed to recreation. Dara Stanley, Dublin

When I walk my dogs on any beach probably 90 per cent of people smile and are happy to see the dogs playing and enjoying themselves. A few people look uninterested or neutral, and one or two look annoyed or fearful of the dogs. I can’t understand why the concerns of such a small minority should impact on the enjoyment of [the] vast majority. I am an animal lover and see all creatures as my equals, and wonder why humans think that everything in the environment is solely for human enjoyment and pleasure. The world and its beaches belong just as much to dogs , birds and all other creatures. Maybe restrict human access to the beaches. John Fleming, Dublin

A lot of people with children have a dog which is part of their family. For more than 20 years I have been walking on the beach in Rosslare and I have never seen a problem of any kind concerning dogs. Helen Leonard, Co Carlow

I’m a responsible dog owner and regularly walk my dog along beaches. He loves the water and running along the sand. However, I feel if there’s an argument against dogs on beaches the same has to be said of humans. The amount of litter, left over food, coffee cups, glass bottles and even used nappies we encounter frequently is ridiculous. Ciaran Treacy, Dublin

I have two dogs and I live beside two blue-flag beaches. Yes, my dogs should be allowed, they don’t leave refuse on the beach – I pick it up and take it with me in bags, but humans leave a mess and never clean it up. Phil Harford

I am visually impaired. Most dog owners do not keep their dogs on leads on Tramore beach.This is done deliberately so they can pretend they are unaware their dog has defecated on the beach. Even the owners who pick up after their dog don’t use scoops, so they don’t remove all the excrement. No dogs should be allowed on a beach where children play on the sand. Niall Donegan, Co Waterford

I have a dog and live close to a beach. I never let him off when beaches are busy and always pick up after him. As a Whippet, he loves to run. I feel responsible dog owners are paying for those who aren’t. Ruth Nutty, Co Wicklow

I live very close to Burrow Beach, Sutton. It would be lovely to say everyone and their dog should enjoy the beach. But the sad reality is many – not all – dog owners do not pick up after their dogs. I feel dogs should not be allowed off leads at anytime during the year. Increased education about the dangers of dog poop to children and public health might make a difference. Orla O’Reilly, Co Dublin

In Spain there are dedicated dog beaches in the summer. It’s great because dogs get to play together and dog owners get to chat. Sarah Marriott, Co Roscommon

Dogs should be kept on their leads and under control at all times but can you please explain why people are not allowed on the sand dunes in Rossbeigh beach (recommended by-law) while sheep are? These animals on the dunes all year round not only erode the growth holding the sand dunes together, but also leave their dung all over so that the polluted run-off flows into the sea at the blue-flag beach. Much more pollution effect than all the dogs walking the beach. Denise Collins, Co Kerry

It’s an unfair and inhumane thing to do especially how much dogs [are] restricted in society already. As long as they are potty trained or if the owner cleans up after them there should be no exception for this. We are the ones who should be kept off the beaches seeing as we are the litter bugs. Natacha Pacheco, Co Kerry

I think dogs belong on beaches, however, the owners have a responsibility to pick up after them. While doing beach cleans in Dublin I have challenged owners and given out poo bags only for them to pretend to collect their dog mess. Those people give the responsible ones a bad name. Sophie Warnock, Dublin

I’m fuming that you’re even considering this article. Most times on our local beach there are no visitors apart from dog walkers, who are out in hail, rain and shine. Stop punishing our only mental health breaks and let us live. I’ve never seen a dog cause an issue on any beach. I’m just back from Italy where dogs were in shops, cafes, even supermarkets. This ludicrous dog phobia has to stop. Tim Drake

I find the proposed changes to by-laws ridiculous. The problem is not dogs or pets but people. The reality is that the plastic bags that one is now meant to carry around in case their beloved pet fouls a public area are far more damaging to the environment and are seen strewn everywhere, often empty. Tom McElligott, Co Kerry

I welcome the news that dogs will not be allowed on blue-flag beaches. I used to enjoy the peace at the beach, now I am too afraid to go to my local beaches these days due to widespread dog fouling and, even worse, the guaranteed experience of dogs running loose. Emma Sinnott

Ireland is not a dog-friendly place and it needs to become one with the amount of dogs that are owned here. As an environmentalist, I have huge issues with the blue-flag criteria. There are also very few bins for dog walkers to put their dog foul into. I have never once met a dog warden that is supposed to manage this stuff. Fiadh Casey, Dublin

Irish beaches, blue flag or not, are a mess compared with Spain. I see the local authority raking the beach daily, there are wheelie bins secured above the high water line that are emptied daily, there are wash stations at every official access point, there are multiple disabled access tracks, litter picking is done immediately after a storm, the promenade has multiple litter bins emptied regularly and beach businesses are “encouraged” to keep their patch clean. If your dog fouls you pick it up, put it in the bin, poop bags are about €1 for three rolls and many leads are sold with a poop bag dispenser. Sam Leigh, Co Kildare

The beaches are a public resource. They should not be taken from those dog owners who respect their importance because of the actions of a minority who choose not to respect their environment. Far too sweeping a measure which will punish undeserving dogs and responsible owners. Conor Flood

Beaches here in Clare are normally deserted during the winter months and we regularly walk our dogs off lead. We are super responsible, always picking up after our dogs. But the council have nowhere to dispose of litter – be it dog litter or otherwise. We holiday each year in France. Dogs are allowed on beaches at certain times, normally early morning/late evenings during the busy summer months, but there are plenty of bins, dog waste bags and signage making sure everyone understands their individual responsibilities. This doesn’t exist in Ireland. Brian O’Briain, Co Clare

I have visited a number of beaches for early morning swims around the Cork coast over the past 10 years and have regularly observed that most of the rubbish and litter comes from people and not their pets. Catherine Fravalo, Co Cork

Dog fouling is a minor problem compared with the human littering going on at the beaches near us. From paper litter to alcohol cans, to nappies and discarded clothes; not to mention old fishing gear. JP Clarke, Co Wexford

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