One of the biggest complaints I get when talking to people on their doorsteps is the amount of dog mess on the streets, in parks and public spaces. The vast majority of dog owners are responsible and clean up after their dogs, but a few either don’t care or are not aware of the upset they are causing others by failing to do so.
Dog mess is not just an eyesore, it’s a potential health hazard – possibly spreading some particularly nasty and unpleasant illness, especially toxocariasis to our young children who are most likely to put contaminated things in their mouths.
I’ve been researching ideas to help tackle this problem and have come up with a few ideas. Many councils have employed patrol officers to catch offenders, with widely varying rates of success. Blaenau Gwent Council, in Wales, issued over 2,000 fines in 10 months for littering and dog fouling whilst Islington Council managed to spend £134,000 during a three month trial on 26 wardens who only managed to issue a total of 22 tickets between themselves.
Other councils employ teams to operate “Poovers” around the streets, which as the name suggests vacuum up doggy sausages. In Hastings the council use what is described as a “sooped-up wheelie bin”, whilst Teeside go for a Ghostbuster-style backpack suction device and North East Lincolnshire Council use FIDO – Feaces Intake Disposal Operation – to tackle their poo-lution problem which is capable of hoovering up a maximum of 120 litres of little message before it needs emptying, suggesting the that they have quite a big problem on their hands (or shoes?).
One relatively ‘fun’ idea was trialled in New Taipai City, Tiawan, where the local authorities collected 14,500 bags of doggy calling cards by giving people a lottery ticket for every bag they handed in, with one lucky winner scooping a solid gold bar with £1,400 for their efforts.
The problem with many of these ideas, as far as I can see, is that they either cost a lot of money to implement or they don’t tackle the cause of the problem, merely deal with the symptoms.
Some good results have been reported elsewhere through either educating or shaming the few thoughtless offenders into changing their behaviour. Some authorities have literally hi-lighted the problem by spraying the unwanted pavement sausages with fluorescent paint. Dorset Council chose bright green, Gloucestershire went for orange and West Dumbartonshire plumped for bright pink. Reinforced by the message “We are watching you!”, behaviour has been shown to have been modified as illustrated by a trial in Newcastle where posters featuring a pair of ‘starring eyes’ placed above cycle racks reduced bike thefts by 62%.
The idea that most appealed to me as being both lo-cost and targeting the conscience of irresponsible dog-owners directly, and one I shall be trying out in Prittlewell, was to quite literally flag-up the problem. With the aid of my 5 year old daughter, we’ve made up some bio-degradable sandcastle-type flags to stick into any piles of poop we come across on the streets of Prittlewell. Hopefully the bright pink flags will help pedestrians better spot and avoid the obstacles and also let the pet owners know that other residents don’t appreciate their thoughtless and irresponsible behaviour.
I’ll let you know how this works out in future posts.