Motoring

Getting tough on dog poop

Everyone’s pet peeve these days in the city is pet poop. That dog poop you find your foot in when you are out on an early morning jog. That your children encounter while walking on the footpath to school. That poop which covers the grass in your local park and makes impossible a leisurely sojourn. Even as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan marches on, declaring more and more places free of open defecation by humans, the issue of open defecation by dogs is brewing discontent and action in many cities across India.

The action so far is limited to encouraging pet owners to clean up their pet’s waste from the roads, failing which they will be fined. Delhi and Mumbai have already imposed a ₹500 on-the-spot fine on pet parents who err. Chennai is in the process of imposing a similar ₹100 fine on dog poop under its solid waste management bye-laws.

Everywhere, this action has pitted not just local authorities against citizens, but increasingly citizens versus citizens: dog-owning/dog-walking citizens versus non-dog-owning residents and walkers. Those who don’t walk a dog in public, point to the public health hazards of canine excrement left to rot on the streets and to the inconveniences thus caused in using public spaces. They suggest it’s the responsibility of dog owners to clean up after their pet, using easily available equipment such as plastic scoops and bags. Dog owners, on the other hand, are aggrieved that they are being pushed to do the job of sanitation workers. They demand instead that the municipality develop special dog parks and poop points before it pockets fines.

As it is, fines have not been easy to enforce or collect. One recollects in 2007 when Mumbai municipality was just starting to impose fines, columnist Tavleen Singh was asked to clean up her dog’s mess on Marine Drive and pay up. She refused both options and referred to it as “a conscious objection to a half-baked, stupid law.”

In the five months of this year since the South Delhi Municipal Corporation announced the imposition of a ₹500 fine on residents who don’t clean up after their dog, the penalty has been levied only nine times. Since most people walk their dogs early morning or late night, offenders are hard to catch as most sanitation department staff are then off-duty.

Cities across the world face this problem, and are constantly experimenting with solutions to this foul problem that messes up public space, public health, public mobility and takes up a lot of time and money to solve. In Spain and the UK, private dog poop detectives track offenders and send their photos to municipal officials to impose hefty fines. Madrid imposes fines as high as $1700 or asks offenders to spend time as street cleaners. In 2013, Brunete, a suburb of Madrid, even mailed offenders their dog’s poop to get them to clean up. Mexico City offered citizens free public wi-fi if they cleaned up after their dog. In parts of Scotland and Oregon, citizens spray-paint uncollected poop in neon shades to draw attention to it. Paris has experimented with an app, a fleet of motorised pooper-scooters that picked up dog faeces, and an ‘incivility police’ that catches offenders.

There are also US companies like PooPrints that matches pet poop to specific pets using DNA technology — this is more useful when the pets are of a specific neighbourhood/apartment block and pre-registered using DNA marking. This year, Wimblington town, UK, successfully solved the problem by crowdsourcing data through a ‘Doodoowatch’ map — which tracked every piece of uncollected turd and mapped it to catch offenders and identify regular haunts. Within a week, incidents of dog poop lying around had reduced.

Of course, catching private pet poop does not solve the issue of cleaning stray dog poop. Clearly, it’s a problem not going away soon, but what’s important is that citizens recognise the right of all to enjoy the city equally, and take responsibility for its maintenance, one dog poop at a time.

The writer is a Mumbai-based journalist, researcher and co-author, Why Loiter? Women & Risk on Mumbai Streets
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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 9:42:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/getting-tough-on-dog-poop/article25103720.ece

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