When you scoop your dog’s poop, don’t for­get to bin it!

Bray People - - LIFESTYLE -

BACK IN the 1990s, the Ir­ish en­vi­ron­ment was lit­tered with un­sightly white plas­tic shop­ping bags. It used to be com­mon to see th­ese bags drift­ing around the streets like tum­ble­weed, or caught in bushes like tat­tered, un­sightly flags. In 2002, the Ir­ish government in­tro­duced a tax on shop­ping bags, forc­ing shops to charge for their use. Within weeks, there was a 94% drop in their use, and dis­carded bags are now rarely spot­ted on Ire­land's road­ways and hedgerows.

In the twenty-teens, there's a new en­vi­ron­men­tal con­tam­i­nant that is in­creas­ingly com­mon: the dis­carded poop bag. Th­ese are of­ten seen in pub­lic parks, dan­gling from fenc­ing or tree branches. They are a par­tic­u­larly dis­gust­ing form of pol­lu­tion: not only are they un­sightly, but they also con­tain a foul sub­stance. They used to be a rare oc­cur­rence but un­for­tu­nately, it's be­com­ing al­most “nor­mal” to see them in your line of view if you stroll around lo­cal parks and gar­dens.

The aban­doned poop bags are the re­sult of a half-done job. Dog own­ers now ac­cept that they have an obli­ga­tion to pick the poop up af­ter their dogs have done their busi­ness. It's well known that dog poop car­ries a po­ten­tial risk to hu­man health (as well as be­ing a dis­gust­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­tam­i­nant), and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have reg­u­la­tions in place, obli­gat­ing own­ers to pick up af­ter their pets.

If some­body is spot­ted al­low­ing their dog to foul a foot­path with­out stop­ping to clean away the mess, they are li­able to be col­lared by the lo­cal lit­ter war­den, re­sult­ing in a fine and a pos­si­ble court ap­pear­ance. Even if an of­fi­cial isn't around to en­force the law, passers-by of­ten in­ter­vene to let peo­ple know that they need to scoop that poop. Most dog own­ers have learned that it just isn't worth the risk of do­ing noth­ing.

The most com­mon way to pick up the mess is to use a scented plas­tic sac, of the type de­signed to hold soiled nap­pies from ba­bies. Th­ese may be or­ange, blue, green or brown; they are all equally vis­ually un­ap­peal­ing.

The prob­lem is that once the poop has been scooped into the nappy sac, the job has only been half-done. The dog owner now con­tin­ues their stroll, with the dog on the leash in one hand, and the full nappy sac in the other. This can be awk­ward. One hand is of­ten needed for other ac­tiv­i­ties (your mo­bile phone may ring, you may want to light a cig­a­rette or you may even just want to scratch the back of your neck.) And it's just “not very nice” car­ry­ing a full nappy sac for the du­ra­tion of your walk. What to do?

Many peo­ple de­cide to tem­po­rar­ily park the of­fend­ing ob­ject be­side the path. The plan is to pick it up later, on the way home, and then to put it into the bin. Un­for­tu­nately, de­spite their best in­ten­tions, peo­ple get dis­tracted. Per­haps they go home a dif­fer­ent way. Per­haps they are in a hurry. Maybe they gen­uinely for­get about the dis­carded bag.

And yes, per­haps they de­lib­er­ately avoid pick­ing up that nappy sac be­cause they just don't want to do it. What­ever the rea­son, the con­se­quences re­main the same: a dan­gling, un­sightly nappy sac.

There's no doubt that this form of lit­ter­ing is a crime, but it's a dif­fi­cult one to stop. If some­one is chal­lenged when caught in the act of plac­ing a bag be­side the path, they'll al­ways ex­plain that it's only a tem­po­rary sit­u­a­tion: of course they'll col­lect the bag later on. And how do you catch some­one in the act of “not pick­ing up the bag”?

What's the an­swer? Per­haps the sim­plest way of fix­ing this would be to let it be known that it is just not ac­cept­able to tem­po­rar­ily aban­don lit­ter in the en­vi­ron­ment. If lit­ter war­dens and passers-by start to give out to peo­ple who do this, dog walk­ers will soon learn that they have to find an alternative.

As a dog walker my­self, I can un­der­stand the dilemma. When you have a full nappy sac, you don't want to carry it and you can't put it in your pocket. You just want to re­move it from your per­son as rapidly as pos­si­ble.. So what can you do?

There are a few al­ter­na­tives. You can buy spe­cial zip-up neo­prene con­tain­ers, de­signed to carry full nappy sacs (see www.dick­y­bag.com). Th­ese have a clip so that you can click them on to your dog leash or your belt, and they are air­tight, so that no trace of scent leaks out if you do need to put the full con­tainer into your bag or your pocket.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties can help too, by pro­vid­ing more lit­ter bins, or even spe­cific poop­bins such as they have in places like the prom­e­nade in Bray. If dog own­ers have some­where handy to get rid of the of­fend­ing ob­jects prop­erly, they are much more likely to do so.

The best an­swer may be for dog own­ers to avoid the is­sue com­pletely. A friend has trained his dog to use his own back garden for poop­ing, so that any mess can be cleaned up and put into the bin be­fore head­ing off on a walk in a pub­lic place.

If ac­tion is not taken to solve the prob­lem of dan­gling poop sacs, there's a risk that dogs may be banned from us­ing pub­lic parks com­pletely. If you're a dog owner, please take re­spon­si­bil­ity for your pet's waste: don't just scoop that poop - make sure that you bin it too.

Aban­doned poop bags are the re­sult of a half-done job.

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