I was whimsically visiting an elementary school park this weekend, enjoying the fresh air and getting in a bit of accidental exercise throwing a Frisbee. I noticed a couple families playing at the park, too—one fielding an impromptu softball game, another playing basketball. A couple toddlers wandered around in the grass under the watchful eye of their parents. It was a traditional American afternoon—open air, free entertainment, and encouraging exercise by the populace.
Imagine my surprise and disdain when I spotted not one, but four piles of canine excrement within an approximately 100 feet square area. Again, I’ll note that this is at an elementary school, not a dog park (which still wouldn’t make the excrement acceptable).
At bare minimum, one person with a dog decided to visit the park (good!) but not clean up after their dog evacuated its bowels (bad!) in an area where a hundred children play for several hours each week.
I hope that your irresponsibility, dog owner, is born out of ignorance, which can be resolved with knowledge. Your dog’s stool impacts the health of your neighbors’ children and dogs. Children fall down a lot, and get cuts and scrapes. They fall down when they’re on the playground. Daily, they grow temporarily filthy and put their fingers in their mouths and noses. Dog feces can transmit various awful things—E. coli and worms can be passed to humans via cuts, scrapes, or mucus membranes like the nose, or ingestion. Diseases can also be passed to other dogs— and that should matter to you, as a dog lover, right? Dogs can get Giardia from eating other dogs’ poo (which is one reason I don’t blame the dog for crapping in the wrong place—dogs can be pretty stupid).
Which leads to another result of your inaction—economic cost. Buying medication to clear up your dogs’ Giardia can be expensive—not to mention the carpet cleaning you’ll require. We like to keep budgets tight on government spending, and overtime for a janitor just to serve as poop patrol cuts into funding that would be better spent on actual education, not sanitation. Moreover, if dog waste gets spread via water (either rain or lawn watering) the bacteria inside can contribute to contaminated water systems and lawn discoloration.
I think I’ve made a solid case for justified irritation at irresponsible dog owners, but that’s another concern in itself. You caused that irritation—so let’s imagine all your neighbors are a little more annoyed because there’s dog doo-doo on their lawn from a dog that’s not theirs. The collective neighborhood blood pressure is a little higher; your neighbors are slightly more tense and aggravated. Am I going so far as to claim domestic violence is borne out of your failure to be responsible? No. But it might be enough to tip the balance of a small action—a person yelling instead of asking politely. After all, it was enough to make me write this column.