DOG SHIT PROGRAM
French Statistic: There are around 17 dogs to every 100 people in France, one of the highest ratios in the world, and an unofficial dog population of some 10 million dogs (over 500,000 in Paris alone).
People would be shocked to know that while walking along meandering paths through beautiful historical villages, you cannot look up. In fact, if you watch the people who live and visit here, they are almost always looking down, trying to avoid the piles of pooh left behind.
SOLUTION: EDUCATE, FACILITATE AND IMPLEMENT
I had a dog for years. Every morning I placed my children in the stroller and we walked to one of the dozen dog parks in Greater Vancouver. If we decide to walk somewhere else, I had a supply of doggie bags in my pocket, and placed her little presents into one of the hundreds of garbage bins located throughout these areas. It was easy, everyone did it, and there was no stigma surrounding it. It was just the law, it was what we did and that was the end of it. Didn’t really think much about it actually , and Canadian, American, and United Kingdom children were brought up never knowing any different. It was the standard. A high standard granted, but one that the people of Canada, at least, felt pretty good about.
You know what, if I am honest, it is the grossest thing. I know dogs. They eat a lot of gross things and to think that I am the one having to hand the feces after digestion, well I can think of many things I would rather be doing. It just doesn’t seem right in the natural order of things that the top of the food chain cleans up the excrement of our four legged companions.
Nevertheless, the only thing more disgusting than handling my dog’s or your dog’s shit is stepping in it and dragging it through my house, into our children’s schools and it ending up in our water and food systems. Yup that is exactly what happens. Imagine thousands of dogs leaving their business on the sidewalk, in the fields, on our beaches and we track through them. Where they would end up is anyone’s guess.
In the country of France but even on the entire European continent, it is not customary to take off your shoes. It is only a matter of time before our children are ill from this. In fact, many of our children do get sick from this, but it is never diagnosed properly and gets passed off as a tummy bug. Not, you have managed to ingested canine feces.
In a small village like ours, with many people from all walks of life, I am not sure this change is possible as it would be changing the fabric of what people believe in. The French love their animals, there is no denying it but it is different than how we love our animals in North America and the UK. Before the government put down the laws surrounding pet owners, enforcing cruelty to animal charges, before neglectful owners were prosecuted, before implementing mandatory spay and neuter programs, and shutting down puppy mills… we were the same. But becoming more kind to animals was something our governments felt strong enough about to make it law and they took responsibility for the animals. And along with changing our views as a society came not inflicting bodily harm. That did not just include when my dog bites you, but also when you step into my dog’s feces that can potentially cause illness. It was now my job to protect you from my dog and his feces. End of story.
People buy a pet, vaccinate them, have them spayed or neutered, and they clean up after their pet. It is the same responsibility as having a child. It costs money, and it is a privilege, and not a right. Pets are part of our families that need love and attention, along with proper training and care. Part of that care is picking up their shit.
The only thing that comes to mind after this thought, is simple LAZINESS. It is much easier to open the door and let your dog roam free to do its business. But how do you teach a culture the new concept? To claim ownership of your luxury item (pets), to prevent damage and to understand the long term reasoning for fixing your pets.
In Hungary we have a beautiful old apartment, and our neighbours are of the lazy variety. Except they don’t let their dogs out on the street to poop but in the stairwell. They are unsupervised and unleashed to do their business. After endless letters from the strata we finally put a stop to this. They were clever enough to let the dogs run up the stairwell, so not to step in their dog’s shit themselves. And they just simply said, it is not our dog making the mess and that it couldn’t be proven. Now we are talking about a difference in class. Maybe UK has the right idea with camera at every turn enforcing their laws.
And if the fines are handed out, and you were trying to get re-elected, perhaps dog owners would vote against you. Imagine a popular dog owner getting dinged with a 250€ fine and it is election year. He would be pretty pissed, and perhaps some of the less educated people would believe that having a dog is their god given right. Who is going to be the first to put their foot down?
Further more, we would be asking people to reconsider taking off their shoes in their own homes, to view their dog as not just protection for your home but your property to take care of and to keep others safe from. It is your responsibility if you have a pet not to inflict harm on to innocent bystanders, and on this point I am referring to children. In Canada a negligent pet owner is viewed as inflicting personal damage. It is enforceable by law and some end up with jail time.
So how do we make changes in a little village or town wanting to make their streets clean to promote tourism? I assure you even with the best of intentions it doesn’t happen overnight.
Currently, street cleaners use up our tax dollars, as they work overtime cleaning up dog excrement! I think this is a Band-Aid solution masking the real issues.
EDUCATE: Before you increase manpower, first the population needs to be aware of why it is dangerous, and be convinced that millions of people get sick from this type of contamination every year (perhaps using the media as a form of education.)
Dog Shit is the #3 cause of water pollution
10m dogs live in France
90% of French do not pick up after their dogs
1 gram of feces contains 23 million fecal bacteria
Diseases & Viruses
- Campylobacteriosis- fever, vomiting, swollen lymph nodes
- Salmonellosis- fever, sick, lethargy, dehydration
- Toxocariasis- vomiting, diarrhea, worms in feces
- Coccidian- bloody diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration
- Cysticercosis- anemia, anorexia, e coli and giardia
- Parvo- diarrhea, vomiting
Dog faeces can pose a significant health risk to humans, particularly young children as their immune systems are not fully developed. All faeces contain bacteria that can cause stomach upsets, but the greatest risk is from toxocariasis, which may lead to blindness. Toxocara is the name given to a species of roundworm commonly found in dogs and cats. This brings up the issue to take care of your animals and have them dewormed every few months.
Our natural ecosystem can handle two dogs per square mile. In urban areas there are 125+ dogs per square mile
Other methods of bacteria transportation; Flies & Pets, humans (especially children), water & and moisture
According to the EPA dog poop is as toxic to the environment as chemical and oil spills
What happens if you don’t pick poop up?
- Decomposition begins and the toxic bacteria seep into the soil.
- Poop carriers dangerous pathogens and pollutes our freshwater supply
- Wastewater treatment systems are not designed to filter dog waste
- Beaches, lakes and drinking water end up with it in them.
When a country decides to ‘Do something About Doggie Doo’, usually the initiative starts from the top and seeps down to all levels of government, and implemented together as a united force.
Examples: British Columbia, Canada decided to pass a law and post $2000 fines for people caught not picking up their dog’s feces. They placed signs in public parks, beaches and streets. The campaign was launched as a provincial initiative with TV ads, newspaper articles..etc informing the public of the health risks.
Everyone laughed until they started handing out the fines. The first person to receive the $2000 fine made his way to the media and the people started to take it seriously. He was made an example of and after that people started to clean up after their dogs, and a decade later, the streets throughout Canada are clean.
Budapest Hungary had the same problem, and they had the added problem of a low-income society, which makes it difficult to implement fines or laws. Their solution was to open dog parks next to the playgrounds so people could take their children and dogs out at the same time. It worked brilliantly and even former communist Hungary has found a solution to their doggie doo.
If France were serious about cleaning up their streets, the campaign would need to start from the state. They would have to convey a clear message of the health risks involved and agree that it is in the people’s best interest to take responsibility for their dogs.
Other Facts to Consider:
- These types of bacterial illnesses put a huge strain on the state funded medical system, so why not start thinking about prevention.
- Once they share a few real life stories about the health risks, then people would start to listen.
- The next step from here would be to start handing out fines, and not just a few euros, but large enough to sting. Those fines would help pay for the numerous staff trying to clean up the streets; a fee that should come from the dog owners themselves.
- And lastly someone needs to be made an example of. Not just the person leaving his dog feces on the ground, but also someone local becoming ill from your dogs shit. Perhaps encourage a lawsuit for personal damage, which has happened in North America many times.
- Open a dog park and have our cleaners clean there once a day, instead of our city workers running around Capestang looking for your dog’s shit. Economically this seems a better answer.
- Pick up stray animals from Capestang and alleviate the added strain of people saying it wasn’t my dog, it must have been the stray. Passing the buck is always a problem, but by making the owners take the responsibility for their pets seems a good solution.
- Implement and subsidize a Spay and Neuter Program and alleviate the problem at the source. There are government funded programs to help low income families to have a pet and not increase the animal population in doing so. We need to tap into these programs and make people aware.
- Garbage Bins next to the Dog Bag Stations along the canal and in our main square.
I don’t think this problem is going to solve itself. It will most likely take time, to slowly educate the people of the risks, to slowly change people’s point of view on their responsibility to their pets and the citizens that are affected by them. Eventually, we will bring up the standard.
And one day I hope to look up as I walk through my village of Capestang, because we have a beautiful village if you can get passed the dog pooh.