Local lady cracks dog fouling issue

It has been spoken about for quite some time – that is, the need to be able to track and prosecute those who continue to allow their dogs to foul our footpaths and green areas.

Well now, a Fermoy woman has invented the means to do just that, and in the process, will create up to 13 new jobs in the area when it is fully operational.

Vanessa McCarthy, who graduated with an Fae.C.Eas Degree in 2009, has come up with what she calls 'the poo tracker' – where the owners of dogs that excrete in public and their poo is not picked up and disposed of properly, can be traced.

Vanessa, whose real passion is the game of Bridge, had set up a lab/studio in her home some years ago when she agreed to undertake a study on foodstuffs for the University of Cambridge, and it was here, during lockdown, that 'the poo tracker' came into being.

Vanessa explained to The Avondhu that, for the Poo Tracker to work, the dog must be microchipped 'so it will need a big push from the Government and the Garda authorities to ensure that the regulations that came into force back in April 2016 on microchipping will be fully enforced.

"Regulations were passed in 2016 that every dog in the State must be microchipped and that chip must be registered on a recognised database along with the owners details," she said.

There was an estimated 455,000 dogs in Ireland in 2019, yet only 100,775 were registered on the four DAFM approved databases that same year. 

Explaining how her invention works, Vanessa said it is somewhat similar to the bowel cancer screening programme that many will be familiar with, where a sample of the dog poo will be collected and sent in for testing.

"I already have the Poo Tracker patented, but in order to qualify for a grant to set up a full laboratory for testing, I am looking for one hundred volunteers who will each be given a swab kit with which they will take a sample and return to me for analysis.

"I know it works as I have undertaken all these tests already. The sample can be from their own dog or from dog poo they come across on the footpath," she explained.

Local councillor Noel McCarthy (FG) who is also chairman of the Fermoy Tidy Towns, said Vanessa's invention will rid the country of what he terms 'this terrible scourge'.

"Dog fouling is a terrible scourge all over the country and I am certain Vanessa's invention will be taken up by every county and city council in Ireland. I wish her well with it and am delighted to have been of help to her in some small way," he said.

Vanessa was loud in her praise for Noel who, she said, put her in touch with 'the right people' who have helped her bring the Poo Tracker to its final stages.

When asked about the jobs that will be created as a result of her invention, she said the majority will be dealing with testing while 'three or four' will be in charge of a service to pet owners who find that their dogs (or cats) may be constipated.

"That will require them bringing the animal to the lab. We will ask the owner to insert a phial into the animal's rectum where it must remain for 15 seconds. It's best the owner should carry out that procedure as it can be somewhat upsetting for the animal.

"We can then test that and give the result immediately. Any action however to be taken following the analysis, will need to be undertaken by a veterinary surgeon."

Vanessa said personnel from Animark, Fido, the Irish Coursing Club and the Irish Kennel Club are to visit her this week on Thursday (April 1) when it is expected, they will give the Poo Tracker their seal of apooval.