By Francine Cunningham
It might be called the perfect storm: an upsurge in people buying dogs to keep them company at a time of social distancing, combined with more people out walking and travel restrictions keeping them confined to built-up areas. A perfect shit storm.
Walks around the pretty seaside town of Greystones, County Wicklow, require regular zig zagging to dodge dog poo on the pavements. Parents are obliged to wheel their prams and children drive their scooters across the soiled boardwalk. And when a child inevitably puts their foot in it, you will hear the distressed cry, “Mum, get it off me!”
The result is that dog poo has become the subject of fierce and passionate exchanges in our residents’ social media group. Efforts to improve the situation have included installing a poo bag dispenser and disposal bin along the main boardwalk, as well as a regular recorded announcement inviting people to enjoy their walk but take any litter away with them and clean up after their dogs. While these targeted efforts have resulted in some improvement, the main offenders continue to offend. Indeed, some dog owners even bag the poo, only to throw it into a hedge or tree branches a few metres further. (There is surely a special place in the doghouse for these feckless pet owners).
Some point the finger at owners distracted on their mobile phones, who drag their poor pooches down the street leaving a trail behind them. Others say that it must be the night walkers, claiming that owners simply don’t see what their dogs are up to after dark.
Yet when someone on the group chat suggested that there should be a rule that dogs are kept on leads in built up areas, she was almost run out of town. There were protests of “Don’t punish the good pets for the sins of a few”. Such are the emotions that rage around dog poo.
Another exasperated person in our local group chat asked if this lack of responsibility on the part of some dog owners is peculiarly Irish? The answer is a resounding “no”.
In Brussels, where I have worked for 20 years, the pavements are just as soiled. In fact, the political editor of Euronews recently took to Twitter to ask: “Is Brussels the most uncivilised city in Europe?”, declaring that “every pavement is seemingly covered in dog shit”. So much so that the Brussels district of Etterbeek last month started an “awareness-raising” action, with a brigade of eco-citizens spraying all dog poop in orange paint.
Judging by our local group chat in Greystones, most of the population is already “woke” to the issue. In fact, if we started spraying the mutt mess we’d have to change the name of the place.
As a dog lover and someone who aspires to have my own pooch someday (who will be from a dog pound and in need of a new human caretaker) I have just one message to all that persistent, inconsiderate minority of dog owners: shit doesn’t just happen.