Time to crack down on doggie-doo dumpers

Russell Wangersky
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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 rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Geographic location: Pippy Park, Quidi Vidi Lake

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Recent comments

  • Anna
    June 26, 2013 - 08:21

    This place is getting worse and worse for garbage, I walked around the lake yesterday and was amazed by the number of people that didn't pick up after their animals. It's gotten to the point where so many people just don't care any longer and it seems like all the councils have just given up on it all. If you happen to walk by the woods by the new Health Care Centre on NL Drive, it is full of garbage that Marco haven't bothered to clean up and no one takes them to task for it. It is so sad we live in such a beautiful Province to have people disregard it like this.

  • More
    June 25, 2013 - 22:11

    It's dog poop, coffee cups, grocery bags, cigarette butts, car wrecks, grafitti, appliances in the woods. Yes we are a "have" province but are we proud of what we "have" ???

  • Anon
    June 25, 2013 - 16:28

    In case you haven't noticed Mr. Wangersky, it's not just dog crap, it's EVERYTHING.This entire island is littered by ignorant newfoundlanders (i spell it lowercase with deliberate disrespect) who can't be arsed to throw anything into a garbage bin if there isn't one within 5 feet of them. And shame on anyone who uses non-biodegradable doggie-bags, there's no excuse for that anymore.

  • Maggy Carter
    June 25, 2013 - 10:27

    You got the scoop on that one Mr. Wangersky. Reminds me of the aliens who concluded that dogs were the masters and humans their slaves - tethered behind to pick up their discards. The problem, I guess, is that some humans are less slavish than others. Frequenting many of the same trails, I have learned to anticipate, and side-step for the most part, the fresh offerings from the early morning crowd. I say early morning because I believe that's when the canine's cunning comrade feels the least inhibited. What does surprise me is the typical turd placement - often right in the middle of the trail. It's as if its owner is making a statement of his own. There was a time when rubbing the animal's nose in it was thought to cure indiscriminate dog doo-ing. We know now of course that it's the wrong remedy for dumb dogs - but what about their dumb owners?

    • Mike
      June 25, 2013 - 11:26

      Right on Maggy Carter!

    • Craig
      June 25, 2013 - 11:48

      "rubbing the animals nose in it" you say! An awesome deterrent for sure! However, how about we adopt a remedy that will see the dog owners nose rubbed his/her pets "doggie-doo"? Since they are the real inconsiderate, anti-social, uncaring idiots it would be a fitting punishment for them don't you think?

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    June 25, 2013 - 10:06

    I am still stuck on the mental picture of a bag of dog poop that is too big to fit through a storm grate!

  • Mike
    June 25, 2013 - 08:32

    Well said Russell. The issue is the same everywhere. I live in Paradise and despite numerous complaints to town officials, the issue continues. I realize that, unless someone is caught in the act, it is difficult to do anything about this with having an enforcement officer on every street corner. Part of the problem is also people who let their cats and dogs roam freely. I have seen them walking around our neighbourhood, doing their business whenever and wherever the feeling strikes. I've heard of kids with sandboxes that have been used as litter boxes by stray animals. On a few occasions, I have attempted to follow them home and find out how their owners like it when someone leaves poop on their property. These people need to be dealt with, whether by municipal officials or people in their communities. Unfortunately, it is the few idiots that make it bad for everyone, however, maybe you're right in suggesting a possible ban of pets on trails, etc. Something certainly needs to be done. I hope anyone who witnesses these inconsiderate acts does something about it, either by confronting the offenders or reporting them.