Dog fouling...Who gives a $*@#
Well, I do for one! I don’t have to walk far from my home in Caerphilly to come across several instances of dog fouling on pavements, grass verges and back lanes. It has been a particular problem in the residential areas of Caerphilly. In this blog, I am going to outline the dangers of dog poo, why it is happening and what is and can be done to reduce it.
Recent research by Keep Britain Tidy suggests that 9 out of 10 people do pick up after their dogs. That’s great, huh? Yes and no. There is certainly now more investment in this problem by local authorities and more understanding about the health risks that animal poo can inflict. But when you consider how many dogs there are in the UK, it really puts things into perspective. According to the PDSA animal wellbeing report (PAW report), there were 8.9 million dogs in the UK in 2018 producing around 1,000 tonnes of poo each day. In Wales alone, there were 600,000 dogs.
What are the dangers of dog poo?
Aside from the foul smell, the appearance and the experience of stepping in it (trailing through a pile with my son’s buggy was a particular low point!), there are serious health implications that can be caused by animal poo.
Dog waste may contain roundworm, tapeworm, salmonella and E.coli. Any of these can cause vomiting and diarrhoea if ingested. This could be due to having traces of poo on your hands after stroking a pet and touching contaminated sand or soil. however it is roundworm in particular that poses the biggest threat.
If roundworm larvae are ingested, there is a risk of contracting toxocariasis where the worst cases can lead to blindness. It is children that are most at risk of becoming ill as they are more likely to touch it (either accidentally or on purpose!) and then put their fingers in their mouth or touch food without having washed their hands.
So, why aren’t people picking up after their dogs?
As a dog walker I see a lot of responsible owners who do pick up after their dog but unfortunately this is overshadowed by the amount of poo that is left behind by others. There are a number of reasons why people do not clear up their dog’s mess, below are some examples.
· Ignorance – this really gets my goat. It is part and parcel of having a dog. It poos, you pick it up and dispose of it responsibly! Unfortunately, there are some that don’t think it applies to them. That if no-one sees then they can just leave it there. In some cases, the owner isn’t even with the dog, they just let it out to do their business and pretend it’s nothing to do with them. Apart from the fact that they are not being a responsible dog owner, they also have no respect for the place that they live.
· Laziness – Then there are the people who do use a bag to pick up the poo but because they are unwilling to carry it any sort of distance, they either throw it into a bush or leave it on the floor. To be fair, sometimes people leave it with every intention of picking up on their way back and then forget or walk back a different way. It is this sort of behaviour that encourages others to follow suit resulting in scenic additions such as this dog poo tree!…
· Genuine Reasons – There are instances where people genuinely didn’t see their dog do a poo or couldn’t find it - especially a problem in the Autumn when leaves are a very good hiding place! There are owners who are unable to pick up after their dog due to visual impairment or physical disability (though admittedly this only makes up a tiny proportion of cases).
· Eco Warriors – I use this label in jest as with the state of the environment right now, we should all be doing our bit. More and more companies are now bringing out biodegradable or flushable(?!) bags to help reduce our reliance on single use plastic. Some live by the ‘stick and flick’ mantra where, if you are in a rural setting, you just flick the poo into the undergrowth thus eliminating the need for a bag at all. Gosh, this could be a whole blog in itself!
What is being done in the UK and around the world?
Dog fouling has been identified as one of the biggest issues brought to councils and politicians in the UK. Keep Britain Tidy and Keep Wales Tidy have been working tirelessly to address the problem. They have stated that they “want to see dog fouling substantially reduced by 2020 and all but eradicated by 2030”. They estimate that local authorities in England and Wales are spending £22 million pounds a year to clear dog mess.
A number of trials and initiatives have been set up by local authorities as well as Keep Britain/Wales Tidy. Below are some of my favourites (please close your eyes and scroll on if you have a weak stomach or are easily offended!)
In addition to posters, local authorities and organisations put up signs in dog walking hotspots to encourage dog walkers to pick up and dispose of their dog poo responsibly. Other initiatives have included residents attaching poo bags to lamp posts (or, as seen in Caerphilly, attached to their front wall). Schemes run by Keep Britain/Wales Tidy include signage leading to dog poo bins which has had a very positive effect.
Each local authority has their own procedures and penalties. Caerphilly is one of a few councils who have introduced public space protection orders (PSPOs). This enables the council to issue on the spot fines to anyone found to have failed to pick up after their dog or even fail to show they are carrying a poo bag (or appropriate item to pick up their dog’s poo) to receive a fixed penalty fine of £75 if paid within 7 days (increasing to £100 if not paid within 14 days).
BBC News suggests “they are used in addition to existing laws on dog fouling and other anti-social behaviour, but can often make it easier to successfully fine or prosecute individuals because it sets out a series of explicitly defined rules.” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-45145181)
A little delving has shown that these aren’t empty threats. Between 01/04/2017 – 31/03/2018 there were 23 fixed penalty fines issued due to dog fouling in Caerphilly borough. That doesn’t sound much but it’s early days and that was just the data available at the time of writing this. You can report instances of dog fouling, full dog poo bins and even owners who don’t clean up after their dogs through the Caerphilly Borough Council website.
An article on the BBC News website (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24998730) has highlighted some interesting methods that have been adopted all over the world to try to address the problem of dog fouling:
In Brunete (Spain) a group of volunteers would look out for dog walkers who did not pick up after their dog. They would then try to track those down by using the town hall pet database and then returned the deposit to their address in a box labelled “lost property”!
Some local authorities in the UK have tried ‘poovers’ – a dog poo hoover. Information about this is limited though so I am not sure whether these are still in use although there are plenty of options to buy online in case anyone is interested. 😉
The power of peer pressure and social media has also proved to be particularly useful. In 2005, a young woman was travelling on a subway train with her small dog in South Korea. Her dog defecated on the floor of the train and refused to clean it up, even after being offered a tissue and being asked to do so by her fellow passengers. They then took photos of this woman and posted them to a Korean website. She was later identified and became known as “dog poop girl”. The image was one of the most popular internet searches in Korea. The woman did publicly apologise but also quit university due to the shame. This is definitely not the sort of behaviour I would encourage!
And the prize for the most extreme reaction goes to…Iran. Earlier this year authorities imposed a ban on walking dogs in public in the capital city Tehran.
What is likely to happen in the future in an attempt to minimise this problem? Well, some authorities are looking into the idea of DNA testing any deposits found in order to trace them back to the dog owner. This is actually something that has been introduced in Pennsylvania in an apartment complex whereby residents are required to have their dogs DNA tested. If poo is traced back to their dog they are fined in the first instance but if it happens again they are evicted! This would certainly make people think twice about not picking up after their dog but it would be a huge job to collect all of the DNA to make this possible.
The option that I think should be pursued is the brainchild of Brian Harper. His invention is a street lamp that is powered by dog poo by using a biodigester to produce methane. His street lamp not only makes use of the waste, it also eliminates the use of plastic as for the lamp outside his home in Malvern to work, the poo needs to be picked up with a paper bag (which he provides). And, not only that, what is leftover after the methane is removed can (and is!) then used as fertiliser.
I think that if PSPOs continue to be enforced alongside current initiatives such as posters and signs indicating where the nearest poo bin is, there is a real chance that the issue can be significantly reduced.
 Website document https://www.pdsa.org.uk/media/4371/paw-2018-full-web-ready.pdf
 Website https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22853270