Stepping in dog shit is just about the most infuriating thing that can happen on a run or a walk. And unfortunately, it seems to be all over our pavements and trails. We reckon it’s time to take a stand. 

Faeces, shit, poo, crap… whatever you want to call it, is becoming an ever-present problem on our streets and trails. My local running route has become more of an obstacle course than a road run as I am forced to dodge and leap over the multiple piles of dog poo left behind by inconsiderate dog owners.

There are currently more than 30,000 dogs in Dublin alone and while we accept that the majority of dog owners do pick up after their four-legged friends, there are a large group of individuals who choose to look the other way when nature calls. As the problem worsens, it begs the question, what can we do to clean up our streets and trails?

Law Ignorers

It is currently an offence under section 22 of the Litter Pollution Acts not to clean up after your dog has fouled. If caught, you can face a fine of €150 or court summons which can result in a fine of up to €4,000 if convicted. But how often do you actually hear about anyone getting fined, let alone ending up in court? Clearly, this is one issue that can’t be solved by the law.

What’s the solution?

Over the past few years we’ve seen various campaigns come and go in desperate attempts to tackle the dog poo problem on the streets of Dublin.

“Pooper snoopers”, “#yourdogyourpoo” and “The Green Dog Walkers” are just a few of efforts that have been made in the name of faeces-free streets, but are they making a change?

About a year ago, Minister for Communications, Environment and Climate Action, Denis Naughten, said that he would “allocate extra resources to local authorities under the Environment Fund and capital resources to roll-out initiatives to combat the problem“. However, the problem is still far from solved. And Dublin City Council (DCC) agrees:

“Dog litter continues to be a problem in Dublin City,” a DCC spokesperson said.

According to the council, they are taking measurements to attack the issue. One of them is the operating of the Green Dog Walker initiative, where DCC staff members attend events in the city, including dog shows, to introduce dog owners to this initiative. They also provide doggie bags free of charge.

“Education and awareness together with enforcement is the only tool available to Dublin City Council to tackle dog fouling in public places,” the DCC spokesperson said. 

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Another initiative is coming from the Finglas-based charity Dogs Trust, who are urging people to pick up after their furry friends with an awareness campaign called “The Big Scoop“. As part of the campaign, Dogs Trust is taking part in TidyTowns 2018 and is also encouraging local groups to apply for the Big Scoop Award, where they collect long-term ideas on how to solve the issue.

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The thing is, dog poo is not only gross (no matter how cute the pups themselves are), it also poses a health risk to anyone living there. One gram of dog poop can contain up to 23 million faecal coliform bacteria. Dog faeces is also a common carrier of hookworms, roundworms, whipworms… (basically a LOT of worms) as well as salmonella and a range of other parasites.

These aren’t ingredients you want in your drinking water, which is a problem, because sometimes rain runoff can wash dog poo right into water sources.

Earlier this year, Cork councillor Ken O’Flynn said that “dog fouling is an epidemic in every town, city and urban district” in Ireland. O’Flynn added: “in mainland Europe, you’d have people shouting down the street after you” if you didn’t clean up after your dog.

According to O’Flynn, money could be used in a wiser way to employ ‘extra staff on the streets’ and to make it easier to prove who the fouling owners are.

“We don’t have a proper, well-organised dog ownership database in this country,” O’Flynn said speaking on Newstalk.

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What are they doing across the pond?

Parts of the UK suffering from the same problem have addressed the issue in a much tougher fashion.  Initiatives have included increased fines and citizen awards for reporting fouling owners.

One of the most successful initiatives to date has been in Wimblington, Cambridgeshire in the UK. The village launched a “poo-shaming” scheme with an interactive map showing unwanted deposits. The scheme, named DoodooWatch, encourages citizens to report dog littering sightings.

Once the poo’s location is logged, it alerts the district council’s cleaning team. DoodooWatch guides have now been sent to 60 councils around the UK. 

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The Isle of Wight’s has considered a DNA database of all local dogs to trace the offending dog owners. However, we’re not sure there would be too many applicants willing to carry out this method of enforcement!

In Gloucestershire and Dorset the council has opted to spray paint the piles of dog poop in bright colours to highlight the mess it makes on the streets.

In New Taipei City in Taiwan, they got really creative (or desperate?) when they started offering a lottery ticket for every bag of poo the citizens handed in. Officials collected 14,500 bags from 4,000 people, and the scheme reportedly halved the amount of excrement in the city.

The Spanish village of Brunete has taken it even further. In order to combat its dog poo problem, the town mails dog poop back to the pet owners who left it behind. The town enlisted 20 volunteers to keep an eye out for irresponsible pet owners and to strike up a conversation with any offenders in order to obtain the name of the pooch. With the name of the dog and the breed, it was possible to identify the owner from the registered pet database held in the town hall and after 147 special deliveries had been mailed to negligent pet owners, the reported dog littering decreased by 70 % in the town.

While some of the ideas above might seem a little extreme we do think that a something pretty radical needs to be done if we are going to combat the problem. So now it’s over to you. What do you think needs to be done to solve this issue once and for all?! Is naming and shaming a good idea? Could poop-police on duty in the park be the solution? Or why not simply increase the fines?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below! 

By Elsa Anderling

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