Dog Fouling, The Law and Common Courtesy
Time for a blog on one of the most controversial issues known to dog owners and dog walkers...dog fouling!
As a dog walker, it’s pretty common to be approached by the general public and asked if I’m clearing up after my dogs. Yes, it’s an uncomfortable question to be asked sometimes, but I always offer for people to look (or smell!) my bag, which is almost always already full of stinking poo bags (and people say “oh what a lovely job”...right?!) As a dog walker, you get used to being asked and even being blamed for the amount of dog poo around, and that’s fine. I know I’m being responsible and that’s the important thing.
Today I followed a fairly quiet, natural path through nearby meadowland. During this hour-long walk I saw at least 5 different piles of relatively new dog faeces, as well as countless, mouldy old piles that had been left behind. I even picked up a few of them myself when they were right on the track.
When talking to a fellow dog owner about this on this same walk, they mentioned they didn’t think they had to pick up in a field, and so being the way I am, I went on the research trail. Turns out, they were right! But does that really mean it's ok to just leave it there?
Dog fouling regulations and fines for offending apply in most public places but actually don’t apply on common land, agricultural land and woodland.
Despite the “rules”, my personal opinion is if your dog fouls in an area where it will affect someone or something else in any way, it should be disposed of responsibly. It’s all part of having a dog and let’s be honest, picking up dog poo really isn’t a big deal. Pick it up, tie the bag, dispose of it. If you’re concerned about the effect of the plastic bags on the environment, buy eco-friendly bags, flushable bags, there are all sorts of quirky, safer and more eco-friendly ways to dispose of poo nowadays. That said, if you have to climb on your hands and knees under a tree in the middle of a woodland, miles from anywhere, getting tangled and scratched by branches and brambles and feeling a little bit like Bear Grylls before he was famous, just to find that one poo your dog “probably” did when he disappeared for 2 minutes, then there is a degree of common sense can probably be used.
But let’s get to the facts. Unlike other animal faeces, dog faeces can take from a few months to over a year to decompose and can contain some seriously harmful bacteria and disease which can be transmitted not only to other animals (shout out to all the poo-eating labradors) but even humans too.
What’s more, it can be seriously dangerous for livestock. There is growing evidence that the disease Neosporosis is the highest cause of abortions in cattle and Sarcocystosis can cause neurological diseases and death in sheep. Both diseases can be found in dog poo.
But come on, it’s just one poo, right? Let’s put it in perspective shall we.
According to the PDSA, 49% of UK adults have a pet and 24% of the UK adult population own a dog. This is an an estimated population of 8.9 million pet dogs in the UK and this is growing all the time. If we all let our dogs foul where we are technically “allowed”, imagine how much poo there would be in these areas.
Here is an example; I walk my group of 5 dogs on a rural field where I am technically allowed to foul. All dogs foul once, two twice (because we all know this happens and the second ones are just the worst to collect). That’s 7 poos. Say I walk in this same place for the next five days and the dogs poo in the same way, that’s 14 poos on day 2 and by day 5, I have left 35 poos in this field. I know, I’m a dog walker and walk more dogs than most, but if just 7 people walk in this field on a daily basis and all leave their poo, it’s absolutely no different. In the meantime, other animals and humans are put at risk, not to mention that awful moment when you step in it. It’s all just very avoidable don’t you think?
So the laws may suggest there are suitable times to leave it behind, but in my opinion it's much safer and more responsible to just pick it up and either take it to the nearest bin, buy an eco-friendly alternative such as flushable bags, dog toilets or many more of the quirky ways people have come up with to safely dispose of poo, each have their own pros and cons. Just please, don’t leave it behind.