On Dog Waste, Yellow Journalism and What to Doo About It.

Drinking my morning coffee, I listened to the CBC radio follow up on their recently posted story about the scourge of uncollected dog feces throughout Vancouver. According to the CBC, the problem is so widespread that it is set to break the City's records for the most amount of complaints received in any single year. Of course, no one likes to step in dog shit, and the rant-line messages re-enforce that reality as a second day's worth of angry callers launch into tirades about horrible dog owners.

A record breaking number of complaints, I think to myself, that must be a lot of dog doo. I watch the CBC report with interest: that record breaking number of complaints? Forty-five. That's right, 45 complaints - possibly set to break last year's record of (wait for it) forty-eight complaints.

I'll readily admit that dog shit in our parks and on our sidewalks in unacceptable, and an understandably infuriating and disgusting problem for anyone who steps in or has to clean it up - presumably even more so if you don't actually own a dog. It's an issue the media loves to capitalize on because it elicits such emotional reactions. But really, forty-five complaints in 11 months, that's news? To my mind, stories like this are the worst kind of Yellow Journalism, a cheap ploy to engage the audience by way of exaggeration and sensationalism. The problem with this kind of sloppy and inflammatory reporting of course, is that it polarizes the issue and pillories all dog owners, tarring them with one generalized brush stroke of antisocial irresponsibility.

But let's take a look at the numbers - by the City's own estimates there are 140,000 dogs in Vancouver (with only 30,000 of them licensed, but that's another story). For argument's sake: let's assume that the city is wildly off base with their estimate and there are only 50,000 dogs in the city. Let's make another big assumption and say that half of those dogs never leave their home or yard and effectively only 25,000 dogs are walked on our city street and parks. Of those 25,000 dogs let's pretend that they only make one bowel movement a day. Twenty-five thousand dogs multiplied by 365 days - that's over nine MILLION dog turds per year! If dog owners were overwhelmingly irresponsible - this city would be literally swimming in dog shit. Even if 5% of our low-balled urban dog population were irresponsible and failed to collect after their dog, that'd be half a million turds per year about 4,000 per square kilometre.

It becomes abundantly clear when you look at the numbers then, that owners not picking up after their pets is an anomaly, not the rule. The kind of people that don't pick up are probably the same kind of people that litter, or run red lights or bicycle on the sidewalk - they're self-centred jerks.

Now that we've identified the problem what do we do about it and what do we do with all the dog waste that IS dutifully collected and deposited in the garbage where it goes on to be entombed in a plastic baggie in a landfill?

Even if 5% of our low-balled urban dog population were irresponsible and failed to collect after their dog, that'd be half a million turds per year about 4,000 per square kilometre.