Like death and taxes, pooping and scooping is a fact of life if you’re a dog owner.
From the time of the earliest civilization humans have taken pets, and with the animal-human bond an unspoken understanding has always been that the owner shall assume responsibility for the dirty work that comes with owning a pet.
In these modern times however, it seems the more appearances become everything, the less people want to be seen performing the menial task of picking up after their pet.
Today’s urban pet owner faces the added burden of keeping an animal in densely-packed population areas, where children play in public parks next to groupings of apartment-dwelling dog owners, out with Fido and Puddles for their daily supper-hour run.
Sharing a public space puts not only a moral burden on to every dog owner to play their part in keeping their environment clean, it also puts the legal responsibility to poop-and-scoop on them as well.
Risk a $255 fine
In Toronto, there is a municipal by-law which requires people to clean up after their pet in public areas, or risk a $255.00 fine.
Unfortunately it’s a by-law which is rarely enforced and more often than not, people are forced to step around the little (and sometimes huge) landmines left behind by pet owners who don’t do their part.
Toronto’s animal control by-law states that every owner of a dog shall immediately remove excrement left on property anywhere in the city. But Eleeta Purdy, city-wide manager for Toronto Animal Services, says that this is a difficult piece of legislation to enforce.
“In order to file a complaint against someone who you know is leaving their dog’s droppings behind, you would need to catch them in the act,” she said. “We simply don’t have the staff to watch all of the parks 24/7, so we respond on a complaint-driven basis. If the offender continues to be uncooperative, we may issue a ticket.”
Purdy says that busy park areas are where people more often neglect to clean up their pet’s mess. She says that while communities of pet owners often police themselves, it is impossible to make sure that everyone obeys the rules.
“In areas where parks get used by more people is where we get the most complaints about dog owners who aren’t picking up,” Purdy said. “Now, with the onset of winter upon us, is when some people start to think that they can stop picking up because the snow will just cover it. What they don’t think about is how bad and virtually unusable parks will be in the spring time if people stop doing their part now.”
Parks are for everyone
Erin Randles, 31, is the proud parent of a pug named Madison, and walks her everyday at the Clarence Square Park in the Entertainment District. She also scoops-up after her dog and has few kind words for those pet owners too lazy to clean-up after their dogs.
“Parks are here for everyone, and I find it kind of selfish that some people don’t stoop ‘n’ scoop. Clearly they don’t care about other pets and people who use the green space,” Randles said.
“And not just people with pets. It would be nice if it was safe for people to sit down on the grass, but the reality is that nowhere is safe to sit because there are piles everywhere. It makes me very angry when my dog or I step in another dog’s mess. Some people really need to start taking responsibility.”
However, not all dog owners feel picking up after their pet is their responsibility; Sophie Hurson, 25, feels the city of Toronto should hire someone clean up after her.
Let the city clean it
“I don’t think people should have to pick up after their pets. We pay taxes so the city can pay caretakers to do things like mow public grass and empty public garbage cans … I think having our pets’ droppings looked after for us is a convenience that should also be provided.”
Hurson’s refusal to pick up after her dog is not always well received by her neighbours and other park-goers.
“I have had people try and stop me and make me pick it up. Sometimes I explain myself and other times I don’t bother. It’s a personal choice and if I had my way, everyone would leave theirs on the ground also to faster create more of a need for the specialized cleaners.”
Purdy says that while it would be convenient for pet owners to not have to pick up after their pets, it is impractical to think that funding for something like this can be achieved overnight.
“If we don’t have the staff available to watch for stoop and scoop offenders, then we certainly don’t have the staff available to clean up after every pet in Toronto,” she says.
Toronto waste and emergency services manager Michael D’Andrea says people need to be better educated on the health issues of leaving dog poop behind in parks and lawns.
A human health issue
“Maybe we need to better impress upon people that aside from the fact that there’s an aesthetic issue, there’s a human health issue and water quality component,” D’Andrea said.
“What flows into those roadside grates flows directly to the lake or the river. I think the average person on the street thinks it gets treated at a sewage plant. When it’s all said and done, our drinking water comes from the lake that all this stuff flows into.”
Indeed, parks covered by dog landmines are not a pretty sight, and it makes them impossible to enjoy, but D’Andrea says that it is a far deeper issue than just how it looks.
“When animal waste is washed into the lake, it creates algae and seaweed overgrowth which must be treated with pesticides that kill the fish who keep the lake water clean.”
Filed from The Centre for Creative Communications