Dog droppings – stooping to conquer

by ethos | May 19, 2007 | Tribune de Geneve |

I was cleaning up old newspapers lying around the apartment recently when my eye fell upon a 700-ton headline. It was from the October 7-8, 2006 edition of the Tribune de Genève. The subject was the ongoing problem of dog droppings. The head of Geneva’s streets department, Boris Woeflé, estimated his crews pick up 2.4 tons of poop from the roads and sidewalks every day.

That’s based on an average dog’s output of 200 grams per “dejection.” In total, it amounts to 700 tons a year, something that appealed to the imagination of the headline writer. Fernando Marques, a street cleaner, told the newspaper he notices it every morning when he does his rounds along the Arve River, driving a “petite laveuse” through a minefield of turds in La Jonction neighborhood. It is one of the worst affected  areas, along with the Pâquis, Eaux-Vives and Servette.

In 10 years, “I have not observed any changes in the attitude of people,” Marques said. His comments reminded me of when I lived in Geneva more than a dozen years ago, on the rue du Jura. I was always amazed by the tenacity of the street cleaners as they hoovered up the feces and washed down the streets every morning, only to have to repeat the same task the next day. All the dog owners on the street, it seemed, walked their pets around the neighborhood in the evening and let them go to the bathroom on the pavement. No sign of the “Bravo” bags then.

The city has since tried to encourage dog owners to pick up after their pets by installing 400 “caninettes” that dispense plastic bags across Geneva. More than 1.3 million bags were used in 2005. “The incivility involves a minority of dog owners who, unfortunately, soil (or befoul) the public space that everyone else wants to keep clean,” an official said.

Dog droppings are increasingly a problem in parks, as well. Geneva’s parks department decided to change the color of doggy-do-do bags to red from dark black or grey in the belief that it has a psychological effect on dog owners to do the right thing. Compared to Paris, of course, Geneva’s problem with this blight is but a trifle. But for those who see Geneva as a generally clean city, seeing any canine dejections on the sidewalk comes as a shock.

For those interested in figures, the dog population in the canton of Geneva (30,000) comes close to the number of people employed in the city’s international sector. The city itself has around 15,000 dogs.

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