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Galway business deploys dogs to sniff out rodents



A Galway pest-control company is employing sniffer dogs to help people to ‘sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite’!

As well as using a Springer Spaniel to detect bedbugs, city-based West Pest also deploys two Jack Russell Terrier dogs to hunt rats and mice in homes, farms and businesses.

Cathal MacDocraigh, from Elphin, has specially trained three dogs to work at his pest control company in Shantalla.

The one-year-old Springer Spaniel specialises in bedbugs – blood-eating parasites that reside in beds.

“Most of the hotels we are contracted to have had other pest control companies in the past. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. But the dog just goes in and tells us exactly where they are in two seconds. The dog is trained to sniff the scent of the bed bug. It’s the same as a drug dog – it’s trained specifically to sniff bed bugs,” explained Mr MacDocraigh.

“We do a lot of work for hotels, who often get complaints from customers who say they have been bitten at night. So, what we do there is we just bring in the dog and the dog will tell us within ten seconds if there are bed bugs in that room. If there are bed bugs in that room, the dog will find the bed bugs for us, which means we don’t have to go spraying all of the room. Or five or six rooms.

“And we routinely check hotels, every five or six months, we go into hotels that we are under contract to, and put the dog through all the rooms to make sure there are no bed bugs in there. It saves a lot of time and money; it saves them beds, and cuts complaints.”

The company has two Jack Russell Terriers – also trained by him – who work in tandem to control mice and rats: One dog identifies where the vermin are, and a younger one is the ‘hitman’.

“The older dog has a specific bark for rats and a specific bark for mice. So, when I go to a house, if I don’t see any immediate signs of rodent activity, she will find it for us. And she’ll also find the entrance. The younger dog is specifically for killing. If we come in contact with rats, the older dog will flush them out, and the younger dog will kill all day long,” said Mr MacDocraigh.

A dog savaging a rat doesn’t sound very humane but Mr MacDocraigh insists it is far more so than conventional methods of pest control.

“If a rat goes into a trap, it takes up to 20 minutes to die. Our dog catches the rat by the neck, the dog shakes his head violently, which snaps the rats neck. That will kill it in three seconds. The other advantage of the dog is, if we go to a farm, say a hay shed where there’s rats, once the dogs go in and kills a few rats, the smell of the dead rats and the dog will deter other rats. There’s no way a rat is going to come back for six months,” he said.

West Pest does all sorts of call outs including in private homes, and even in cars, which is becoming a big problem.

“There’s an awful lot of wiring in cars nowadays, built with a by-product of soya, which is basically a food source for a rat. We get an awful lot of calls from people about rodents in their car. Basically, what we do is put a smoke bomb under the car, which flushes the rat out, and the dog kills it.

“In private houses, we just put the dog in. Traditional pest control companies use bait boxes, and they have to send a guy around every month, or two months or three months to check the boxes. All we do is let the dog out and the dog actually physically checks the bait boxes for us. If the dog doesn’t show any sign of activity, we don’t even have to check it. The dog is doing in five minutes what a pest controller might take 40 minutes.”

Mr MacDocraigh says “there is no rocket science” involved in what he does.

“We’re just working off the dog’s instinct. The trick is not to train the dog but to read what the dog is telling you. That’s the secret. That’s the mistake most people make who have a good dog. Anyone can train a dog, but it’s to be able to read what the dog is telling you . . . Once I give an individual house the all-clear, I show them how to do their individual pest control. Everything I do I explain why I am doing it and even people with the worst phobias in the world are now doing their own pest control.”

It’s not exactly a glamour job, so how does anyone get involved in pest control, and why? “I’m the great contradiction – I’ve always been an animal lover. That’s why I got into pest control. We’re not into cruelty. I’ve always been fascinated by animals and their behaviour. We try to be as humane as possible in this game,” adds Mr MacDocraigh.

West Pest’s three dogs are starring in Madra na nGael on TG4 next Tuesday, December 13 at 8pm.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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