Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston have discovered that not all dog owners like cleaning up dog poo.
In a comprehensive paper published recently, snappily titled ‘Environmental and social impacts of domestic dog waste in the UK: investigating barriers to behavioural change in dog walkers’, Christopher Lowe and colleagues discuss environmental, health and safety issues surrounding dog ownership and the mess they leave behind..
Apparently, there are over eight million dogs in the UK, but only five types of owner. Not all of these like to clean up after their doggies. This is despite a huge amount of money (£22 million) spent by local authorities to encourage them to do so.
They say most dog walkers are happy to bin dog waste. But research found a small proportion of dog walkers don’t think picking up their dog poo is the ‘right thing to do’.
The team carried out a path audit in dog walking areas of Lancashire to determine the influence of path morphology, location and management on the frequency and location of bagged and non-bagged dog waste. They also asked dog owners to complete a survey regarding dog waste.
The report highlights the presence of dog poo in country parks, walks and other recreational areas can deter visitors and have a local economic impact in those areas.
The team suggested there are five types of dog walker from the most to the least socially and environmentally responsible:
– Proud to pick up – happy to be seen carrying dog waste, will pick up in all locations and take it home if no bins are available
– It is the right thing to do – will pick up in public places and dispose of; often embarrassed to be seen carrying bagged waste
– I have done my job – if there is no bin available will leave the bagged waste to be dealt with by others
– Only if I have to – will only pick up in the presence of other people – likely to discard when no one is looking
– Disengaged – will not pick up in any situation even if they are aware of the environmental consequences of their actions
The paper highlights complexities of the dog mess issue. In particular the importance of interactions between situational, social and individual motivational factors in influencing behaviour. “It is suggested that significantly more research is required to assist in addressing this emotive yet complex problem,” they say.
Local authorities spend a future providing bins and the collection of mess plus costly advertising, reported to cost around £22 million a year..
The researchers also found that in addition to tackling the worst offenders, persuading those who do bag the waste to put it in a suitable bin either on the street or at home is important as there is evidence bagged up dog waste left in the environment could be a long term problem.
They say dog waste is also an emotive subject and complaints made by the public to local authorities are often dominated by dog waste issues. There are, the researchers report, several hundred thousand public complaints each year, which also adds costs to local authorities.
Back in March we reported that a Preston man who let his dog foul and failed to control it has been fined nearly £1,000.
“Environmental and social impacts of domestic dog waste in the UK: investigating barriers to behavioural change in dog walkers” in Int. J. Environment and Waste Management, 2014, 13, 331-347