A conservative MP has made news by saying something sensible! In the middle of the furore about Brexit, trade relations with the EU and even the future of the Union of Great Britain, Anne Main took time out to say what many of us think but dare not say – many dog owners are being very irrational and even dangerously stupid.

The problem being discussed here is plastic litter and the disposal of faeces that your pet dog leaves on the side of the path, or even in the middle of the pavement. Many dog owners obey the letter of the law and pick up what their dog leaves after voiding its bowels. There is a fine for littering that can be £1000 . Some of course do not pick up and never will.

The owner only causes a problem when he, or she gets bored or embarrassed by carrying a bag full of dogsh*** around. Dogs will usually empty their bowels at the first opportunity where they smell that other dogs have been before – often in the car park or at the start of the long awaited walk. After carefully bagging the smelly article, the owner then proceeds if they are sensible, to a bin that has been used many times before. Others on an unfamilar walk stroll along carrying the little black bag at arms length for a varying amount of time. Then they realise that if they deposit the bag, it now constitutes deliberate littering but the experience of the walk is getting worse every minute. SO…The bag is dropped surreptiously into the undergrowth or hurled over the nearest hedge. Since the aerodynamics of a bag full of poo are unpredictable, the bags often end up hanging in the branches of the hedgerow for all to see and enjoy. A few “responsible” owners bag and leave the bag in a prominent position, apparently hoping that someone else will do the right thing and transport the bag for them to a non-existent disposal bin.

I will proclaim an interest here, as dog sitters we often walk other people’s dogs and therefore have a duty and legal responsibility to clear up after those animals we care for. We are always provided with plastic poo bags and use them where practical and sensible (where there are many dogs being walked and disposal bins available). What I have always done whilst walking through open countryside and rights of way through woods and field, is NOT to bag the poo, which then causes a disposal problem where there are no disposal points, but to ensure that the animals excreta is kicked or prodded out of sight and possible contact with other humans feet. This is what our stout-minded MP has also said is the common sense thing to do.

My other interest is that around the nature trail which is extensively used by dog walkers, the number of abandoned poo bags is growing and this plastic obviously, to most people presents a littering problem – perhaps more so than fishermen’s empty beer cans or the multiple remains of takeaway food meals. Bagging dog faeces is predominantly a solution to an urban problem (we have watched with fascination as the pavements of Paris are washed down by specialist machines at enormous cost). Why do we insist on bringing the problems of the town to the countryside?

After all, we do NOT pick up after sheep and cows have voided their bowels across the countryside, and few would pick up a fox or squirrel dropping. On recent courses I watched with interest as female students, who would perhaps recoil from touching a dog dropping, got down to the ground to sniff an otter spraint. They apparently smell quite pleasant.

Humans are funny animals and I would politely request that no walker, dog-owner or otherwise leaves any plastic bags around the trail.

Keith Falconer, March 2017

Photo of Sally, by Claire Bridges.

Keith Falconer is a local naturalist with many years experience of observing and photographing the wildlife of this region. He has an amazing knowledge of birds and bugs and all the creatures that live around us. Every few weeks he share his seasonal account of what to look for and listen to across our wonderful nature trail.