Saturday, 20 September 2008

OPINION: I have had enough of dog pooh

I have had enough of dog pooh tarnishing the Warrington streets and
beach. After seeing that a full page of September's 'Blueskin News'
was devoted to the Fluoride Action Group and a plea to prohibit
vehicles from Warrington Beach, I felt it was appropriate to highlight
the issue of dog pooh as it could be more easily addressed. To add
perspective to my article, I would like to point out that residents
can choose not to drink the piped fluoridated water, but residents
have no choice but to live with the Warrington streets and beach that
are polluted with dog droppings.

The dog pooh left on our streets and beach has the potential to cause
serious illness. Toxocara canis is a parasitic infection carried by
dogs. It lays eggs which are present in the dog's faeces. Once in the
environment the eggs are very difficult to destroy. If a human, let's
say a child, as this is the group most at risk, swallows soil or sand
which is contaminated with faeces containing these eggs, then they can
become infected. It is obvious that this could occur easily when one
thinks about how often our children have sand or soil on their feet
and hands, on their toys, or the wheels of their buggy which may be
taken in to the home. The infection is usually very mild but more
serious complications of the infection include blindness, seizures and
severe respiratory problems. These are caused by the body's reaction
to the larvae of the parasite.

In a New Zealand survey, up to 5% of the population studied had
evidence of toxocariasis infection and in groups regularly exposed to
dogs (and their faeces) the infection rate is likely to be higher. I
contacted Public Health South, and a Dunedin Hospital based
Paediatrician, both advised that no recent case of toxocariasis in the
Dunedin area has been severe enough for hospital treatment. We have
evidence infection is occurring so it is just a matter of time before
an individual presents with a serious case.

The infection is present in many dogs and all (100%) puppies. Because
the infection is present in every puppy it is essential, for the
health of the puppy, other dogs, the owner and others in their local
environment, that puppies are treated for the infection. Vets
recommend that puppies start treatment for the infection from 2 weeks
of age until weaning. I am advised that products purchased from a vet
will treat toxocara canis but not all supermarket products will.
Regular treatments for dogs are needed as it is not possible to
totally clear the parasite from the dog each treatment.

I do not know if the dogs using the beach and streets in Warrington
are regularly treated for this parasitic infection so potentially the
huge amount of dog pooh on our streets and beach is infected. The eggs
of the parasite are not infectious until 2-3 weeks after the dropping
is deposited by a dog and so will only contaminate the soil when left
for a period of time. Cleaning up faeces immediately would virtually
eradicate the threat of toxocariasis.

The alternative is to never let your child play on the ground or eat a
picnic at the beach.

I would like Warrington to be a safe place for children to be "let off
the leash…without worry" and enjoy "family picnics," if I may refer to
Geraldine Tait's beautiful vision of our beach.

I am sure the majority of owners are cleaning up after their dogs but
for those who are not, what can we do to help? Would more bins and a
supply of plastic bags be appropriate?

Please respond with ideas of how we can better manage dog pooh. I do
think that a few strategically located plastic bag dispensers and
rubbish bins may go a long way to solving this problem.

by Jackie Hughes

From and 'Blueskin News' published by Blueskin Media:
voluntary/non-profit community publishers in Blueskin Bay (Seacliff,
Warrington, Evansdale, Waitati, Doctors Point), Dunedin, New Zealand.
All material sent to or published by us is "copyleft" in the public
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