Opinion | Time for more pet owners to give a poop where their dogs do doo-doo

The only downside to snow melting in Toronto at the end of another brutal winter is what’s thawed in the process: mounds and mounds of dog poo. Of course, dogs themselves love this springtime delicacy, but for obvious reasons human beings do not.

It’s good news then that the city of Toronto has announced a much-needed expansion of its 2021 dog waste pilot project: a pilot that last spring saw some city litter bins converted into dog poo exclusive receptacles. In other words, a single compartment on certain litter bins located in areas with a high concentration of dogs (parks for example) are designated for dog waste only. Or to use the city’s preferred term: poop. For some reason (maybe there’s a three-year-old on the city’s payroll?) the stickers on these bins read, “dog poop,” instead of poo or waste.

Whatever you choose to call it, there’s certainly a lot of it. According to the city itself, the pilot was launched in “response to field observations and waste audits showing a steady increase in dog waste disposal in litter bins. A spring 2020 audit of a number of street litter bins located near parks and in areas with a high concentration of dogs found that 45 per cent of waste (by weight) in these bins was organic material and that 99 per cent of that organic material was dog waste. The goal of the pilot is to confirm if dog waste collection in street litter bins is feasible and can help the city divert more dog waste from landfill.”

The first phase of the pilot began last May with 10 designated bins, the second phase launched in August bringing the “poop” bin total up to 38. The third phase, announced this month, will bring the bin total up to 100 citywide.

Granted I’m not a waste disposal expert but was a three-phase approach really necessary here? For anyone wondering why it takes eons to build transit and housing in Toronto, maybe the fact that it took up to a full year to put out a bunch of garbage bins gives you a clue.

But it’s good they’re out because Toronto has an excess dog poo problem, as any TO dog owner will tell you who has tried and failed to stuff their own green bag into a sidewalk garbage slot practically full to the brim with them.

But better in the bin than on the street.

This month, New York City’s sanitation department announced the beginning of a ticket blitz targeting dog owners and walkers who fail to pick up after their pets. In addition to the ticketing blitz, the city also rolled out a public awareness campaign putting up signs informing New Yorkers: “There is no poop fairy. Please pick up after your dog.” (Clearly “poop” is the chosen term of major cities.)

Some residents prefer to take things into their own hands. Last year, one Vancouver man was apparently so peeved about all the littered poo bags scattered in local parks, he began planting miniature paper flags in the piles that read: “Really? WTF dogwalkers.”

In reality, though, it’s Mother Nature who should be saying WTF. According to a study published this year in the journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence, dog feces and urine may be overfertilizing the ground in nature reserves and damaging wildlife. “We were surprised by how high the nutrient inputs from dogs could be,” Pieter De Frenne, the lead researcher on the study, told the Guardian in February. “Atmospheric nitrogen inputs from agriculture, industry and traffic rightfully receive a lot of policy attention, but dogs are entirely neglected in this respect.”

If Toronto is “a city within a park” as the signs say, the issue of dog excrement certainly shouldn’t be neglected here. And where the city’s pilot project is concerned it isn’t. The new bins will help divert dog waste from landfill. But perhaps a PSA is in order in Toronto about picking up after your dog even when there are no bins in sight. There’s a common misconception among dog owners that it’s OK to let your dog go in nature, deep in the bushes where nobody will scold him or you. Yet research indicates otherwise.

Just because nobody is around to step in it doesn’t mean leaving it there is a victimless crime — least of all in Toronto, home to a high traffic, urban ravine system. If you value this unique and spectacular part of our city, and even if you don’t, you have a duty to pick up the doody. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

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