A new Channel 5 documentary has uncovered the truth. A rise in dog ownership and pressure on council services mean Britons are having to watch their step. Britain's Dog Poo Scandal (Channel 5) saw presenter Alexis Conran and his trusty spaniel, Gelmer, going walkies around the UK to investigate the toxic issue blighting our public spaces. About time too, with 1,000 tonnes of muck now produced by Britain’s dogs every day – and nowhere near enough of it being responsibly cleaned up by owners.
It is not a problem to be sniffed at.
A year after the coronavirus crisis, local media, council newsletters, social network users and disgruntled environmental health experts across the UK are warning that the country is in the grip of a dog mess emergency – and that new puppy owners are shirking their responsibilities to clean up after their lockdown pets.
Of course, the poo problem is nothing new, and the subject has long engendered a passionate response from those who have found themselves stepping in it. But even by those standards, Facebook, Next Door and Twitter have been aflame with anecdotal evidence of an escalating issue since the pandemic began – and after lockdown, many suggest, matters have got out of control. You might, if you had a tolerance for bad puns, call it a poodemic.
Dog fouling is a major issue in many different areas of the UK, to highlight the escalating dog mess crisis, presenter Alexis Conran and his canine companion, Gelmer, took to the fields and footpaths around the country to find out more.
"It's one of the country's biggest pavement peeves. We've seen it happen and we've smelt the aftermath. And, at some point, we all put our foot in it," Alexis says in the documentary. "With complaints of dog poo causing such a stink, what is going on in the UK and why can't people pick up their dog poo? Is it getting worse?”
“It’s the most passive-aggressive subject in neighbourhood social media.” A UK survey found that 47% of adults think dog fouling is one of the most annoying things they experience in public places, worse than litter, pollution, traffic and smoking.
Not only is dog mess disgusting, but it can also be highly toxic. Over at Newbridge Rugby Club in South Wales, eight-year-old Jake was playing on the field when his face fell onto a pile of dog mess. Smearing on his face and eyelid, there were fears it may have gone into his eye. Thankfully Jake was fine, but it could have been serious due to the parasite toxocariasis and bacteria in the poo.
“Toxocariasis, an unpleasant infection that can cause blindness and seizures, can cause inflammation in the lungs and in the liver, as well as a granuloma. This can cause blindness if it effects the eye," Dr Zoe Williams said on the program.
Is dog poo really that bad? It’s horrible to step in, and contact carries a very small risk of toxocariasis. But it’s organic matter: surely that’s not as bad as plastic waste that takes six lifetimes to decompose. Recent research on popular dog-walking routes in nature reserves in Belgium suggests it’s not that simple. The excessive levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in dog faeces can upset the delicate balance at these sites, allowing certain plants (such as brambles, nettles and hogweed) to outcompete more fragile species that need low-nutrient environments to survive. Conran investigated the risks of illness for children and wildlife, alongside the harmful effect that dog poo has on the environment. It’s ultimately an owner problem, of course, because they’re effectively leaving a health hazard out in the open. Extra scorn was saved for the baffling habit of “litter exhibitionism” – leaving full bags dangling from branches, like a sort of demonic Christmas tree.
“Picking up poo is part of owning a dog. If you’re not prepared to do it then don’t own a dog.”
So what can we do? Is there a less crap in, less crap out solution? Louise Glazebrook, dog behaviourist and dog diet evangelist. “Dogs who are fed well on fresh diets, especially those on raw diets, tend to have excellent poo. It is firm, small, calcifies quickly and is super easy to pick up.” If your dog’s poo is loose, like Mr Whippy but warmer, then it’s an issue.
Canned processed foods, she says, can potentially lead to “a mountain of wet, sloppy poo that no one wants to pick up. If we paid more attention to what we put into our dogs, we could afford to pay less attention to what we pick up, as it would be easy and no bother.” It’s only a partial solution. Oscar, being both fussy and French, insists on natural human-grade dog food, and generates high-quality manure.
Potential solutions offered up here included dog wardens, DNA testing and fixed penalty notices - offenders can also be fined up to £100 if caught in the act. More poo bins and free bags would also help but council cuts make this unlikely.
I thought I should watch this as the owner of a dog that poos. Learning nothing, only that there are eccentric Brits obsessed with dog poo.#britainsdogpooscandal— Mr Pickles (@Sweggers) June 16, 2022
I always thought my husband was turning into an old fart when he said there's "Nothing but shit on t'telly..."— Iron (Road) Maiden (@FeRoadMaiden) June 16, 2022
How I scoffed, how I teased him... Until tonight when my eldest turned over to @channel5_tv
It has happened, I am an old fart. #BritainsDogPooScandal
You can watch Britain's Dog Poo Scandal on Channel 5 now. Catch up here.
Betty & Butch best-selling plastic-free dog poo bags are bigger, thicker, tougher and totally leak-proof! They're good for the environment, the community and your pocket: