Dog Fouling and Toxocara Canis

Under Section 22 (of the Litter Pollution Act, 1997) , it is not an offence to allow a dog under your control to foul in a public place, however it is an offence to let your dog foul and fail to remove and dispose of the foul subsequently. This means that you or the person in charge of your dog is required under this law to remove dog faeces and dispose of it in a suitable and sanitary way.

An on-the-spot fine of €150 can be imposed on the owner of a dog who fails to remove dog faeces from a public place, with the maximum fine for this offence being €3,000.

Failure to clean up after your dog can result in humans, particularly children, becoming infected by a dog parasite that can cause blindness. The parasite is a worm called Toxocara canis that passes its eggs in the dogs’ stools.

What is Toxocara canis?

Toxocara is a roundworm which infects dogs in Ireland. It is rare for a dog, especially a young pup, not to be troubled by worms at some stage. Even in dogs that are regularly wormed can still carry some of these worms. The worm lives in the dog’s intestine and its eggs are passed in the dog’s stools.

What is Toxocariasis?

Toxocariasis is an infection which humans can pick up as a result of coming into contact with the eggs contained in the dog’s stools.

Although usually a mild infection in humans, Toxocariasis can have potentially serious health effects such as blindness. 

How might someone catch it?

The Toxocarra eggs have to be ingested (i.e. taken into the mouth and swallowed) before someone can catch the infection.

This could happen if a person handles soil, sand or any other material that is contaminated with dog stools and subsequently has direct contact with the mouth before hand-washing.

Gardens, play areas and public parks are likely sites for contamination with dog stools. Children’s sandboxes frequently offer attractive sites for dogs to “relieve themselves”.

Who is at risk?

Young people, especially toddlers, are at most risk. They commonly handle soil and dirty objects. They are more likely to put their hands to their mouths, lick fingers, suck thumbs and eat without prior hand-washing.

What are the symptoms?

Toxocariasis is usually a mild infection in humans, although symptoms may persist for many months. It is characterised by fever, feeling generally unwell and chest symptoms. Other symptoms, such as abdominal pains and generalised rash, may occur. In extreme cases the eye may be affected, resulting in loss of vision in that eye. The disease is rarely fatal.

How to prevent it?

Dog owners must not allow their dogs stools to remain in public places – remove and dispose of it.  All it takes is a scented child’s nappy bag.

  • Parents should be aware of the potential risk associated with family pets.
  • Dogs  should be wormed regularly; Consult your veterinary practitioner
  • Clean up all dog stools whether inside or outside the home (especially play areas)
  • Keep children’s sand pits & sand boxes covered when not in use.

Remember Any Bag, Any Bin!