Don’t get me started on dog mess. As a hound owner who takes his poop-scooping seriously, I increasingly feel in the minority. Since lockdown, when UK dog ownership soared from 9m to 13m, our pavements and parks have become blighted by the stinky stuff. I spend a frankly infuriating amount of time cleaning it off my and my family’s shoes. I find myself tutting and shaking my head in disbelief every time I walk past another fresh pile. I’ve basically turned into Victor Meldrew with slightly more hair and a pocketful of biodegradable poo bags.
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.
Potential solutions offered up here included dog wardens, DNA testing and fixed penalty notices. More poo bins and free bags would also help but council cuts make this unlikely. Conran instead met campaigners who have resorted to tackling it themselves on a local level, including Minehead’s “dog poo vigilante” Steven Heard and Solihull childminder Carla Earl, who has marshalled a pint-sized army.
Are our dogs’ diets partly to blame? Former vet Arielle Griffiths argued that turning our pets vegan would help. Her own plant-based hound Ruff, she explained, eats tofu and quinoa. No wonder the poor fella looked so hangdog.
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.
He drew on data to find out which part of the UK took the, well, bottom prize for having the most complaints about dog poo. County Durham, go to your basket. But Birmingham and Antrim? Good boys. There was just time to visit a collie in the US which had been trained to use a human toilet and flush it afterwards. Conran had the self-awareness to self-deprecatingly ask: “Where has my career gone?” Literally down the toilet, I’m afraid.
Eventually, Conran put aside the canine puns and jolly tone to end with an impassioned plea for dog owners to pick up after their pooches. Let’s hope some of the culprits were watching and shamed into fixing their foul ways. In the meantime, mind your step out there.