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March 29, 2017

After the bombardment of global politics in recent months it was actually a relief to see ‘dog poo’ trending on twitter this March. Then we found out that it was up there because of a parliamentary debate on the subject. Ah well.

Don’t get us wrong. We hate to see those little plastic bags swinging from the trees or sat at the side of the path as much as the next person. We are just as tired of reminding people that, sorry Tinkerbell, there is no such thing as the dog poo fairy. We make this pretty clear to the poo-tree ninjas in our Take the Lead campaign film.

However we cannot agree that flicking your dog poo into the undergrowth is a better solution – that’s like saying that throwing litter into a stream where it sinks out of sight is better than leaving it at the side of the road for everyone to see.

“But it’s just one little dog poo.”

Did you know that there are more than a million dogs living in south east England. Our 2015 visitor survey showed 16 per cent of visits to the National Park were for dog walking. That’s in a protected landscape that receives 46 million day visits every year. Let’s just take a moment to think about the quantity of dog poo being generated. Urgh!

“But poo is natural. Wild animals and farm animals are out pooing in the countryside.”

Yes, the countryside is full of poo, but dog waste is different. For a start dogs eat meat which means their poo smells considerably worse than animals that eat only plants. And yes, we know that foxes eat meat too but there are far fewer foxes out there than dogs – just 195,000 across the whole of England according to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Worms and diseases from dog waste can infect people, livestock and wildlife and even pollute your local water supplies.

Henry Brown is a farmer at the eastern end of the National Park who is struggling with the volume of dog mess left on their grazing pasture. “We have more than 200 dogs a day passing through the field and too much dog waste gets left behind. We are now finding that our animals are suffering from infections which can be carried in dog poo. When we sent our lambs for slaughter last year a number of their livers were condemned due to a parasite called cystic tenucollis. We also had some abortions in the cows last year too, which the vet suggested could be caused by neospora, which again can be found in dog waste.”

If the problem persists Henry thinks they may no longer graze these pastures, and a huge number of rare plants and insects can only thrive when the ground is grazed.

Finally let’s just take a moment to think about all the other users of the National Park. The unsuspecting school children getting the chance to learn outside the classroom, the military on exercises, the runners, the ramblers, the horse riders, the cyclists.

Leaving poo bags on trees is disgusting but ‘sticking and flicking’ really isn’t much better. We know that the vast majority of dog owners love the countryside and would be devastated to think they, and their animals were causing harm.

Dog poo is bad for people and bad for the countryside. Good dog owners know to bag and bin it – any bin will do.