A messy business


MOVE OUT OF HARM’S WAY Dog faeces contains bacteria, viruses and parasites that are harmful to humans and other pets.

The vet's view
Conal Finnerty

A number of local authorities and tidy towns committees in Mayo have approached me in the past few weeks over an issue that irks so many people. Dog poop in public places. In the next number of months, campaigns will be running to help highlight this growing problem in our towns and public spaces, walkways and walking trails, and they asked if I would get involved in and give advise on the topic of dog fouling and matters related to this issue.
Let’s face facts, picking up after your dog isn’t the most pleasant of things to do, but it must be done. It is a legal requirement, an environmental problem, a potential human and animal health problem and a problem in terms of attractiveness and aesthetics for any town, walkway, walking trail, beach or beauty spot.
We have seen an explosion in the area of dog ownership in the past 18 months for various reasons, and this has unfortunately also led to an explosion (sorry for the pun!) in the problem of fouling. Walk out the door of your house now, especially if you are living in a urban or suburban settings, and you will have to run the gauntlet, keen-eyed and sidestepping to avoiding walking in the stuff.
I believe there is a misconception surrounding this problem. Many say the vast majority of people pick up after their dog, but I believe the opposite is actually the case. I actually think the number of conscientious owners out there is far outnumbered by the number of people who either don’t care, don’t believe it is necessary or worse still, think its someone else’s problem. It is a legal requirement to pick up after your dog, plain and simple.
Dog faeces is potentially very harmful to both man and beast alike, as it is likely to contain millions of potentially harmful bacteria, dozens of viruses and numerous parasites. These include everything from coronaviruses, giardiasis, salmonella, cryptosporidiosis, campylobacteriosis, parvo, whip, hook, round and tapeworms to name only some.
Parasites in dog faeces can live for months in the environment, and these can cause serious diseases in humans, including gastrointestinal problems, meningitis and even blindness.
Leaving aside the unpleasantness of stepping in dog poop and dragging it into your car or house for a moment, let’s think about the environmental consequences. Dog poop attracts rodents, because they are attracted to the scent of partially undigested elements of the faeces, and they can carry the above mentioned disease producing organisms into the water table, into your vegetable patch or even directly into your house. Imagine!
I suppose it probably isn’t wise to say the following (since it may lead to some people saying, ‘Sure who cares, I won’t get caught’), but I reckon it might help authorities to focus their energies more effectively. I believe that rather than ambulance chasing cases of individual dog fouling, the authorities should focus more on education and providing public bins and poop bags and running campaigns to encourage people to pick after their pet.
It is virtually impossible to prosecute someone for dog fouling unless they are caught on camera in the act of walking away, and even then it’s difficult. I know this because I have talked to a number of local authority litter wardens, and they have told me so.
In the domestic setting, I am regularly asked what can people use to help stop their pooch pooping in the wrong place. The most common and useful products are vinegar, citronella oil, cayenne pepper and chilli powder – but remember to be careful where you use such products around lawns, veg patches and the general water table.
Most importantly, remember to always bring your poop bags for a walk as well as your pooch!

Veterinarian Conal Finnerty MRCVS practises at the Skeldale Vet Clinic in Ballinrobe and Belmullet. Follow the clinic on Facebook, or call 094 9541980 or 087 9185350 to make an appointment.