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Editorial: Doo and don’ts

This hedge along Pleasant Street is being used by at least one dog walker as a private dump for dog waste bags.
This hedge along Pleasant Street is being used by at least one dog walker as a private dump for dog waste bags.

It was the worst kind of gift-wrapped surprise. A family in Yarmouth, N.S. saw a small black bag sticking out of their 15-metre long spruce hedge.

It was a neatly bagged pile of dog feces.

Then they looked closer. There were more. By the time they had finished cleaning out the hedge, they’d found more than 200 bags. All the same type, all clearly with contents that were the product of a large dog. All apparently deposited by the same uncaring dog owner.

Own a dog? You might be part of the problem.

The most commonly quoted numbers suggest that, in the United States, 83 million dogs produce a combined total of 10.6 million tons of feces every year. While dog owners probably don’t want to hear this, it’s a significant contaminant in watersheds and can carry a variety of parasites that can affect human health.

Left to its own devices, unbagged, it can take almost a full year to completely break down — depending on variables like volume, the type of food the dog eats, outdoor temperature and weather conditions.

Bagged and tossed into the bushes, it can last even longer. And the bag-and-fling brigade is alive and well in the St. John’s metro area.

The trail that runs from near the Health Sciences Centre up to Memorial University’s Botanical Garden in St. John’s is not the busiest — it’s a steep climb, and you can traverse the whole thing and meet only a handful of people and fewer dogs.

Despite that, and the fact that the trail boasts free bags for dog waste and regularly emptied garbage cans at several entry points, even a 10-minute walk is guaranteed to include at least one, if not many, bags of doggie-doo flung into the nearby trees. The truly artful fling them in a way that makes them hang from broken spruce branches like putrid Christmas tree ornaments.

The trail into the woods on the top of Allandale Road beyond the Pippy Park golf course? At some times of the year, especially with the snow melt, it could be named the Hung with Dung Trail. There are few spots that advertise human ignorance quite so clearly —happy to have a dog, diligent enough to be seen bagging the mess, but then willing to hurl it deliberately into the bushes and let someone else deal with it.

It’s true — just as with motorcycle owners with loud exhaust pipes — it’s probably only the tiniest proportion of dog owners who are the problem.

But, like those motorcycle owners, those who are the problem run the risk of poisoning the ground for everyone else.

There are bags and bins and bylaws already — do dog owners need servants as well?

Or will banning dogs from public trails have to be the next necessary step?

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