Poo. And I don’t mean Winnie. This is a rather indelicate subject, I’m afraid, but one I encounter often on my walks around the local area. In the UK, dog fouling is a serious issue, as it should be, since there are an estimated 7 million dogs on these islands producing 365,000 tonnes (about 800 million pounds) of feces per year. To ensure walkers aren’t slogging hip-deep through the stuff, most districts have erected disposal stations along sidewalks and footpaths, and enforce fines for those who refuse to scoop the poop. In my district alone, there are several hundred dog bins (I pass at least six on my three-mile circular route around the neighborhood) emptied regularly by a disposal company contracted by the local councils. Across the nation, the minimum fixed fine for dog fouling is £50, but could reach as high as £1000 if the case goes to court. It is interesting to note that fouling offenses and the accompanying penalties do not apply to working dogs or guide dogs. The anti-fouling scheme seems to be working, because not once have I returned home from a walk with dog crap caked in the soles of my shoes.
That does not mean my outings are feces-free; I am constantly dodging road apples in our rural village, and am confused about why there are no horse fouling laws. DEFRA estimates that there are somewhere around one million horses in the UK. While this is less than 15% of the dog population, the beasts are poo machines, letting loose 8 million tonnes (18 billion pounds) of dung annually. Much of this manure falls harmlessly in fields and stalls, posing no hazard to innocent pedestrians, but it only takes one pile of equine excrement to completely ruin a hiker’s high. Horses and walkers share many of the same paths around here, those paths often being the neighborhood roads. Without going into a complicated physics lesson about dung density, vectors, and angular velocity, suffice it to say that poo exiting a moving horse’s backside tends to cover quite a bit of asphalt, unlike the humble dog pile which is delivered from a stationary pose with a much lower trajectory. It’s not always easy or safe to navigate around horse droppings on a single track road where cars are whizzing by at 60mph. So why aren’t horse owners responsible for clearing these minefields for the good of the wider public? Why is there such a doo-doo discrepancy? Why are dog owners persecuted when Fido fouls the footpath, but horse owners ride off into the sunset with impunity when Mr. Ed litters the landscape? I’d look more closely into this issue, but I’m too busy watching where I step.