It’s not rocket science — it’s waste disposal. And frankly, it’s waste disposal at its most basic. Pretty much anyone should be expected to be able to figure it out.
The wording from the city is clear: “If your pet goes on any property other than your own, you must stoop and scoop the feces immediately. This shows respect for our neighbours and public space.”
What isn’t as clear is what’s supposed to happen to what’s been stooped and scooped. Common sense would suggest that pet owners — and to be blunt, primarily dog owners, because dogs are the main culprits — should take their bags of poop and dispose of them properly in the garbage.
That’s far from what’s happening.
I’ve walked dogs before, and I’ve stooped and scooped, and I know how unpleasant it can be to be endlessly dragging a still-warm plastic poop bag around. In fact, it ranks right down there among the downsides of pet ownership.
But having collected a basically biodegradable substance and wrapping it in non-biodegradable plastic, I have never decided the best idea would be to flick it into the woods or the bushes where it can become an everlasting bag of nasty that, eventually, someone else has to deal with.
Apparently, I’m in the minority — because, on almost any city trail that sees substantial dog traffic, there’s plenty of evidence that people may like their pets and may even be guilted into bending down and cleaning up after them — but they have no compunctions about tossing that crap-laden bag the moment they’re sure no one’s watching.
Maybe it’s only a small proportion of pet owners. Maybe most are diligent and thorough and always bring Fido’s presents home. Maybe it’s the sheer non-biodegradability of, well, packaged poop that makes the gifts so noticeable.
But head up into the trails in Pippy Park and you can find “doggie bags” hanging from tree branches and peppering the underbrush. You can find them on the trail around Quidi Vidi Lake, and even see them bobbing like little ships in the lake itself. You can find them curbside on residential streets, and driven over in intersections.
There’s even a friendly dog owner in the east end who has been stooping and scooping, and then stuffing the precious packages through roadside grates and down into the city’s storm sewer system. You can tell, because whenever packing the poop into the pipe gets too difficult, the happy pet owner simply leaves them halfway crammed through and heads off with Spot to whatever other adventures are at hand.
The craptastic display is, of course, at its worst when the snow melts and an entire winter’s hidden packaging is suddenly on display, but even now, it’s pretty clear that there are regular daily additions to the collection.
And it doesn’t seem like anything is changing.
Perhaps it’s time for far more direct action.
Think about how the city deals with other problems: if there is a neighbourhood park that’s a regular hangout, everybody — good kids, bad kids, casual visitors — gets moved along.
If such a large number of the city’s pet owners don’t respect the city’s walkways and trails, perhaps pets should be banned from those areas — at least until enough pet owners can be counted on to act responsibly.
That sounds like a harsh punishment — affecting the many for the actions of some unknown subset of dog owners. But what other way is it likely to be stopped?
The only thing worse than having to deal with fresh dog poop is ancient, well-packaged permanent waste. Dogs have to poop, people have to scoop. But flicking the well-bagged waste? Wilful and calculated. It’s not going to stop with a “pretty-please.”
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s
editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.