Cream teas, Brexit and dog poo…all very much the topics of heated debate in Britain. Plymouth is no exception. From community Facebook groups, to neighbourhood-watch-nominated poo patrols, there’s no avoiding that dog mess is a hot topic; the most unacceptable and offensive type of litter.
Not only that - but it’s also potentially dangerous. Contact with dog excrement, particularly in children, can cause toxocariasis – a nasty infection that can lead to dizziness, nausea, asthma and even blindness or seizures. That’s why dogs are banned entirely from play parks and why many parents won’t allow dogs to poo in their own garden.
There around eight million dogs in the UK and those millions of dogs drop around1,000 tonnes of poo every single day! And that poo? Well, responsible citizens are picking it up in a bag and disposing of it in the waste at home or in a nominated council bin. So I guess you could say that ultimately we are preserving organic matter in an ecologically expensive plastic bag and then sending it to landfill where it is prevented from decomposing!
So what happens if you decide that picking up the poo is too harmful to the environment? Well, you could well be breaking the law.
Anyone who fails to clear up after their dog can be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice of up to £100. If the case goes to court this could cost the owner or person in charge of the animal up to £1,000. In Plymouth, should you be witness to mess on the streets, you can report the problem to the council who may come and clear it up.
Some councils, North Somerset for example, will fine dog walkers if they are not carrying poo bags, even if your dog hasn’t done one, with owners facing a £75 (falling to £50 if paid within 10 days) and a £1,000 fine if they prosecute.
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t get out of paying the fine if the pooch doesn’t belong to you either - after all, otherwise dog walkers like Harris Hounds would be littering pathways across Britain’s Ocean City - and none of us want that!
Keep Britain Tidy has campaigned very successfully on the issue of dog fouling. In 2010, they launched a campaign called ‘There’s no such thing as the dog poo fairy’ which was then also replicated by the National Trust. Yet, people still collect their dog poo in a bag and will leave it hanging on a tree or laying on path right next to where the deed was done. This is just as bad as not picking up!
The only people exempt from picking up after their dog are those with disabilities that restrict their sight or mobility, including pet owners that are registered as blind. You can also avoid getting a fine if you leave mess in areas used for agriculture or woodland but it is encouraged that you ‘stick and flick’ the mess away from the public path or from where someone may accidentally step in it or a child may touch it with their hands. The law also doesn’t apply on rural common land, marshland and motorways.
Now, there are many very clever inventions to make our poop scooping more convenient. For example, last year a retired engineer called Brian Harper launched his dog-poo powered biogas street lampon the Malvern Hills. Walkers use free paper dog poo scoopy-bagsand put it into a bin that feeds it into a biodigester which in turn produced methane to power a streetlamp that comes on at dusk! Now wouldn’t that be great if that could happened right across the UK?
However it doesn’t! So Plymouth City Council has provided us with as many poo bins as we should need and dog mess can now be put in any of the city’s public litter bins.
Maybe the answer is to buy ecologically friendly poo bags instead? These ones from Eco Vibeare to be recommended. A lot of bags are marketed as ‘biodegradable’ but actually aren’t, and still contain plastic. But these ones can be added to any home compost that won’t be used on root, stem or leaf vegetables and can be put into industrial composting that can accept pet waste. If they have to go to landfill, they are 100% plant-based so will not release any toxic chemicals or micro-plastics into the environment.
So - that’s it. On our dog walks we often come across poo bags disposed of on pathways, or poo just left in the middle of the pavement or footpath. Please be a responsible dog owner and pick it up - it really is better for all of us.