Editorial: Let's be more considerate

So, instant fines for dog owners who don't carry plastic bags to clean up after their animals when they find they have to answer a 'call of nature' while out on a walk?

Well no, actually, that proposal was voted down by the Timaru District Council yesterday, but it's nevertheless an interesting one.

The first thing that strikes me is how on earth was that policy going to be policed? Would we have had council putting on dog poo patrols, or indeed dog poo receptacle patrols, to check for those not complying with the requirement to clean up after their mutts?

Of course not.

Perhaps, in this era of smartphones with high resolution still and video cameras, we could have had busybodies encouraged to dob in non-complying dog owners, with accompanying photographic or video evidence. But wouldn't it have been hard to prove they weren't actually carrying a bag, because there's not exactly a restriction on where one could carry such an article.

Yes, some dog owners choose to tie the bag around the leash as they walk, but others might put it in a pocket or have it otherwise located out of sight. Where's the proof then that they don't actually have a means with them of clearing up after pooch has pooped? And what of the times when the doggy-doo - along with the bag - has already been done away with when muttly and master or mistress are spotted?

It all sounds a bit high-handed and officious anyway. Yes, there's the point made that a dog owner who doesn't carry a bag is similar to someone possessing drug paraphernalia, in having the intent to transgress. There's no guarantee a pooch will need to go when out on a walk, but not carrying a bag does create the possibility of the owner being caught short if it does.

What we're really talking about here, as far as I'm concerned, is anti-social behaviour - on a par with, say, being on a mountain bike and racing up behind walkers in the Scenic Reserve without calling out to warn of your presence - which, by definition, doesn't consider the needs of others.

Dog owners should be encouraged at every possible opportunity to curb or clean up after their dogs, and if they happen to be spotted transgressing by a council official, warned with the threat of a fine for a repeat offence.

What doesn't help the whole situation, of course, is that when council has provided bag dispensers at the Scenic Reserve, they've been vandalised. That's pretty anti-social too. Seems what we might really need, across the spectrum, is a little more consideration for others.

The Timaru Herald