Community groups are likely to become the frontline force in the battle against dog-fouling in Co Cork amid concerns that an increasing volume of volunteers are undertaking jobs traditionally done by the council.
After some persuasion, the local authority has agreed to provide dog fouling bins to voluntary groups which promise to empty them themselves.
The initiative is to be undertaken by the municipal district council after councillors backed a motion from Cllr Danielle Twomey.
The council's veterinary section used to deploy dog fouling bins in certain areas around the county, but this function of the council was disbanded in 2012.
This was primarily because the bins were not being emptied sufficiently regularly due to a shortage of council staff. This led to people leaving the waste beside bins when full, creating health concerns.
Cllr Twomey said this policy had been counterproductive as dog fouling had become "a huge issue in all of Cork".
She said one community group in East Cork recently made a request to the local municipal council for a dog fouling bin.
"Knowing that these bins are in storage at the council facility in Midleton, they were refused a bin due to the current policy. This group then went radio and were donated a bin by Ballincollig Credit Union," she said.
Cllr Twomey was backed by other councillors when she called for the policy to be reversed.
Jim Molloy, senior executive officer for municipal district operations, said from now on municipal districts will be happy to consider requests for bins from community groups, but only "where the council is satisfied that appropriate arrangements are in place and agreed with the groups for their erection and maintenance".
Cllr Seamus McGrath said he was concerned that the council was giving up on the job itself.
“Increasingly we are putting more and more (work) back on communities, like tidy towns organisations,” he said.
Cllr Martin Coughlan said a tidy towns group recently had to empty litter bins in Macroom because there were not enough council workers to do it.
"The council is falling back on its duties," Cllr Joe Carroll added.
Council chief executive Tim Lucey said that during the recession there had been a recruitment embargo on employing more outdoor staff.
However, he said the council had recently been able to employ an additional 55 staff.
Mr Lucey added that the West Cork municipal district had more outdoor staff per head of population than other areas "and will have to be some rebalancing".
Cllr Twomey said the council should be doing the job itself, but acknowledged there are not enough outdoor staff and "we should be helping the community groups help themselves".
Cllr Liam Quaide said there should be more enforcement for the dog-fouling laws.
Cllrs Michael Hegarty, Paul Hayes and Mary Linehan-Foley said a significant amount of community groups want to get involved in this so as to improve their local areas.
"We should 100% support them. There is a crisis in some areas, it's horrendous," Ms Linehan-Foley said.
Cllr Ian Doyle said dog fouling was a major issue in parks and playgrounds, while Cllr Audrey Buckley added that these bins should also be located at beaches.