Not Picking Up After a Dog: A Global Perspective

I’ve lived in 4 cities around the world, and only in one of them are people good at picking up after a dog. So… does this mean I’m off the hook?

Picking up after a dog poopsI am religious about this; one could even say I’m dogmatic. (C’mon, I had to go there.) When my dog poops, I scoop. I don’t like people who leave dog messes for others to find. Not only is not picking up after a dog really gross and disrespectful to others who have to use that particular sidewalk or park; it is an environmental hazard. Pet owners have an ethical responsibility to clean up behind their pets because of the downstream (literally) implications of leaving the poo — parasites, water contamination and other hazards.

Right now I live in Egypt, but over the years I have also lived with dogs in New York, New Orleans and Dublin.

Of those cities, New York City is by far the cleanest from a dog poop perspective. New Yorkers pick up after their dogs. If they don’t pick up the poop, someone will make sure to tell them what a #@$!& they are and shame them into bagging it. Personally, I like this system.

In NOLA people just don’t seem to care. When I was living there one guy actually bragged to me that he spent most of his time pretending to be on his cellphone when he was walking his dog — that way no one would interrupt him to pick up after his pet in the event his pup pooped.

People in Dublin were disturbingly comfortable vomiting in the streets after a night out, so dog crap didn’t seem like a problem to most residents.

But the absolute worst is Cairo. Very few people, including Westerners, are seen picking up after a dog. There are huge piles of animal waste in the middle of sidewalks that are left for others to step in.

Which brings me to my question: Does this mean that I am not ethically required to pick up after my own pet because no one else does?

No one here seems to care. They flagrantly leave piles of poo on crowded sidewalks. And, also much like New Orleans and Dublin, when people see me picking up my dog’s poop they shake their heads and act as though something is wrong with me; they give me looks and make disparaging comments wondering why I would be so dirty. One Mensa candidate in New Orleans said, as he watched me pick up after Lulu, “What is wrong with this world that dogs are treated better than people? No one picks up after me like that.”

Uh, yeah.

It’s not like picking up after a dog is difficult here. But in Cairo the problem is a lack of public trash cans, so I have to carry the baggie with me until I find a trash bin, which is sort of icky. And no one else is doing it. So do I have to?

From a practical perspective, I don’t feel I have to do it. No one will fine me, no public health official will reprimand me, no neighbors will knock on my door. I can walk down the street without a shred of worry about the issue.

Except for my conscience. Sigh.

“Be the change you want to see.”
– Ghandi

“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”
– H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“If you are embarrassed to tell your mother about something, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.”
– My mother

With pockets full of plastic bags, I will continue to scoop poop on the streets of Cairo.

Sarah Blakemore

View posts by Sarah Blakemore
Sarah Blakemore has been researching and writing about pet care and pet behaviors since 2007. She has cared for many pets over the years and has volunteered with several animal shelters around the world.

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