UK’s worst place for dog mess revealed (and what can be done about it)

Don’t get me started on dog poop. As a dog owner who takes their poop seriously, I feel increasingly outnumbered. Since lockdown, when dog ownership in the UK increased from 9m to 13m, our pavements and parks have been marred by the stinky stuff. I spend a frankly exasperating amount of time cleaning my shoes and those of my family. I find myself lying and shaking my head in disbelief every time I pass another fresh pile. I basically turned into Victor Meldrew with a little more hair and a pocket of biodegradable poop bags.

Britain’s dog poo scandal (Channel 5) saw presenter Alexis Conran and his trusty spaniel, Gelmer, wander across the UK to investigate the toxic problem ravaging our public spaces. It was about time too, with 1,000 tonnes of mud now being produced by UK dogs every day and nowhere near enough responsibly cleaned by the owners.

Potential solutions offered here included dog sitters, DNA testing and fixed penalty notices. More free poo bins and bags would also help, but council cuts make that unlikely. Instead, Conran met activists who have taken it upon themselves to tackle it locally, including Steven Heard, Minehead’s ‘dog-poo vigilante’, and Carla Earl, Solihull’s nanny, who has gathered a pint-sized army.

Is the diet of our dogs partly responsible? Former veterinarian Arielle Griffiths argued that making our pets vegan would help. Her own plant-based dog, Ruff, she explained, eats tofu and quinoa. No wonder the poor guy looks so naughty.

Conran has investigated disease risks to children and wildlife, as well as the harmful effects of dog poo on the environment. This is ultimately a landlord issue, of course, as they effectively leave a health hazard out in the open. Extra contempt was spared for the confusing habit of ‘litter exhibitionism’ leaving full bags hanging from the branches, like some sort of demonic Christmas tree.

He relied on data to find out which part of the UK last won the prize for receiving the most complaints about dog poo. County Durham, go to your shopping cart. But Birmingham and Antrim? Good boys. There was just enough time to visit a collie in the United States who had been trained to use a human toilet and flush the toilet afterwards. Conran had the self-awareness to ask self-deprecatingly, “Where did my career go?” Literally in the toilet, I’m afraid.

Eventually, Conran put aside the canine puns and cheerful tone to end with an impassioned plea for dog owners to pick up after their pooches. Hopefully some of the culprits watched and were ashamed to fix their bad ways. In the meantime, watch your step there.

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