Wexford's dog warden is 'busiest in country'
WEXFORD County Council Dog Warden John Colfer has collected the most stray and unwanted dogs of any county in Ireland each year since 2010.
There were calls for an additional dog warden during a review of the Control of Dogs policies in the county at the recent meeting of Wexford County Council, to help Mr Colfer do his job.
1,287 dogs were collected last year, up 45 from 2013, while 446 dogs were euthanized, five more than in 2013.
Many of the dogs put to sleep were involved in attacks on sheep, in road accidents, were found in very poor condition, were very old or showed aggressive tendencies. The figures for 2015 are improving in terms of the percentage of dogs put down, the meeting heard.
The local authority's net financial deficit was the 13th highest in the country for the Dog Warden service last year, while dog licence income was the eight highest in terms of licences per 100 of population.
The income from dog licences in 2014 was €162,778, a deficit of €65,107.
Mr Colfer was praised for his excellent work in the review, while the county's modern, clean and presentable pound kennels, new vehicles, the good relationships fostererd with animal welfare agencies, good working relationships with Gardaí and the public, were also mentioned. The weaknesses outlined in the review were a stretched dog warden service, little kennel space, a need to take on new dog microchipping regulations and more resources for dog licence checks.
The report recommends an improved web presence for rehoming dogs and more emphasis on education and awareness with regard to responsible dog ownership and preventing attacks on sheep. A part time dog warden is also recommended, while concern is expressed in the report at the cost of employing a full time warden (€35,000 to €50,000 per year).
Cllr Barbara Anne Murphy said one of the problems overseen in the report is that dog's don't read.
'Dogs don't read for a start which is a big problem. Whenever we put up signs about dog fouling they don't read them and the people don't either. It's a big problem,' Cllr Murphy said.
She said when Mr Colfer goes looking for the offending canine, he or she is nowhere to be seen.
Cllr Fergie Kehoe complimented Mr Colfer and his staff for their expediency in re-homing dogs. He asked if CCTV can be used to prosecute the owners of dogs who foul up public areas.
'Wexford Tidy Towns are working very hard to try to improve the environment in Wexford. What seems to be letting us down is dog fouling. It has come up in Tidy Towns and IBAL reports.'
Cllr Oliver Walsh expressed disappointment that the local authority was only considering appointing a part time dog warden to help Mr Colfer, adding that a full time dog warden is required.
'It could be self financing if there was enough of an increase in the number of dog licences.'
He said the campaign highlighting sheep kills requires graphic images to alert dog owners about their responsibilities.
Hugh Maguire of Wexford County Council, said there has been a reduction in dog fouling in public areas as people are carrying pooper scoopers, which are readily available at a cheap price. He said there was a spike in sheep kills by dogs in the county last year.
Cllr Paddy Kavanagh said more microchipping is needed. Cllr Pip Breen said more manpower is needed, suggesting the need for a dog warden in every district. 'There are 20,000 unlicensed dogs here. It would also keep dogs and their owners under some kind of supervision.'
Mr Maguire said if Mr Colfer wasn't in place the situation in the county would be far worse.
Cllr Robbie Ireton said: 'The number of dogs being put down is horrendous for a county this size.'
'We are spending over €250,000 a year on this dog problem and it's just not getting any better.' He suggested giving elderly people living on their own in the county a free dog licence. 'It would help them feel safe in their own home and it would give them more company,' he said, before adding that instead of euthanizing dogs, the dog owners should be euthanized.