According to Brian Baldwin of the Noordhoek Environmental Action Group (NEAG), there are an estimated 12 000
dog visits to Noordhoek Beach every year.
This figure is based on statistics collected over the past 12 months.
“It’s a wonderful experience for the dogs, and no doubt their owners too, to have such a wonderful beach on which to exercise,” he says.
But exercise is not the only thing a dog might do.
“They poo,” he says. “And dog poo is a problem. Walk down the pathways to the beach – and you will see the evidence.”
He says that a dog’s digestive system can handle just about anything – and frequently does. “Even without an unpredictable and varied diet, a dog’s poo is very toxic,” he says.
“A single dog poo will likely produce more bacteria in one day than a human, a horse and a cow combined. Just one dropping can contain up to three million fecal bacteria – which is not good news if you step in it and, particularly, if you are a child, barefoot and with a scratch on your big toe,” he points out.
The human health hazards created from dog poo infections are serious and can even be lethal, he says.
“To name just a few – dysentery, typhoid, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, E.coli, giardia and salmonella. Add to this to the contamination of ground water supplies and you can understand the nature of the problem. It can certainly spoil a nice walk along the beach,” he says.
We are not alone in experiencing this problem. In the United States, (according to the New York Times) there is enough dog poo deposited annually to fill tractor trailers parked end to end; from Seattle to Boston.
“Check that out on your atlas,” he says.
Fortunately Noordhoek doesn’t have a problem that size.
“In fact we need not have any problem at all – if only dog owners would clean up after their dogs. Some do, many don’t,” he says.
NEAG has, over the past two years, organised, on the first Sunday of every month, a beach clean-up with particular emphasis on the dog poo.
NEAG hands out bio-degradable bags for owners to pick up and bag their dogs’ waste – or they can use a poop scoop.
The aim is to provide information and encouragement to the dog owners and ensure that more drastic measures, for example, banning dogs from the beach, are not taken by the authorities to keep the beach clean and safe from health hazards.
“In the US and Europe an increasing number of local authorities are enforcing dog registration, a process that then establishes the dogs’ DNA from which the owners can be traced and fined under local by-laws. Or, as is the case in some towns in Spain, arrange a special delivery to the owner’s house of what their dog has left behind Apparently this has proved an effective deterrent,” Mr Baldwin says.
There are bins at the beach in which to put the “bagged” deposit and, even if these are full, dog owners can take their bag home and bin it there.
Or, he says, the internet is full of ideas for dog poo composting solutions.
“Don’t spoil the beach, or worse, cause a fatal illness for someone’s child. Pick up and bag your dog’s poo,” he says.