A group of dog walkers resident at Beach View Terraces have had enough of the ‘irresponsible nature’ of pet owners who do not clean up after their animals. After forming a committee, the group decided that the best thing to do would be to introduce biodegradable dog bags in dispensers set up at the lobby of each block for the use of residents. Stephanie Piri, a member of the committee and the proud owner of two ‘very energetic’ Bodegueros, walks her dogs three to six times a day and always picks up after them. She also carries around a bottle of soapy water to clean up after their pee too and friends tend to laugh at her because of the number of jammed plastic bags in her coat to pick up any mess. She believes that the problem of dog fouling within the estate has become huge in the first few months of people moving in. There is also a gravel patch at the back of the estate which quickly became known as ‘The Doggy Toilet’. Last month, the committee organised the unveiling of the first ever dog bag dispensers in a local estate and, with flaring attitudes towards this ever-present issue in Gibraltar, it could be that this turn in behaviour could catch on.
What is your opinion on the current culture of dog fouling?
It is a problem, however, there are so many responsible owners who do clean up after their dogs that they vastly outweigh the irresponsible. Unfortunately, we only notice the irresponsible owners as they are the ones who leave all the mess behind. My opinion is that the decision to own a dog should not be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider, such as vet bills, food costs and the needs of the individual animal. Whether or not you are prepared to pick up after the dog also needs to be considered as leaving faeces behind for someone else to clean up is inconsiderate and unhygienic. Inevitably, someone will step on it, prams will be rolled over it and the rain will spread it further.
What goes through your head when you see someone leave their dog’s mess on the ground?
I feel very angry when I see someone hasn’t cleaned up after themselves. I understand accidents can happen, perhaps that person ran out of bags and has quickly popped home to get one, I think, hopefully. It never works out that way, the poo is usually still there the next day. I feel that these irresponsible owners give everyone a bad name. My friends and I have cleared up other dog’s poo many times in the past simply because we are embarrassed to see it there. I walk my dogs as part of a larger group at least once a day and I feel that because we are such a big group, and we draw so much attention as we pass, that many people will think we are the irresponsible people leaving the mess.
What effect do you think the introduction of dog bag dispensers will have on local dog owners?
We are hoping that people will use this in an emergency rather than be dependent on it. We would like to change people’s attitudes towards picking up after their dogs and we think this will have a positive effect on the problem in the area immediately surrounding our estate.
How did this decision come to be and how were you involved?
The committee made the decision to create a ‘Pet Subcommittee’ in order to tackle the issues of pet ownership. The subcommittee is made up of both pet owners and non-pet owners so that both opinions can be heard. Some issues were simple to curb just by reminding people of certain rules. The dog fouling issue continued to be a problem, however, and the head of our subcommittee Nadia Ivanova was the one who found the dispensers online. We discussed their pros and cons and after securing funding and sponsorship, we made our proposal to the committee for approval. Ibex Insurance sponsored three dispensers, Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic one and Signtalk printed the stickers for free. These were ordered and installed in February.
Tell me about the support you have from the community?
In general, I think the Pet Subcommittee has been well received. The residents have seen that we are working to tackle the issues that matter to them regarding pets. We haven’t published anything about the dispensers just yet but we believe they will be well received, especially as they have been completely funded by outside organisations whom we must thank for their generosity.
Where are the bag dispensers placed and how many?
There are four dispensers, two in each lobby of the estate. These locations were chosen due to the house rules stating that all dogs must be walked in and out of the estate through the main block entrance only.
Is this a trial run and do you have plans to introduce more in the future?
We hope this will work well and we will continue to provide the service as long as we can. We won’t be installing more dispensers as there is nowhere else to place them.
Do you think there is a space issue in Gibraltar for dog owners and that this perhaps is one of the core problems?
Yes and no. Gibraltar is very small and there are very few places to safely exercise our dogs. I understand that owners can be frustrated at this, however, this is not an excuse not to pick up after them.
words | Mark Viales