Why I went from doggie-doo denier to poop picker-upper

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Readers of this column will know I’m not the most compliant citizen when it comes to Australia’s mania for pet-related by-laws and warning signs. But several things changed my mind about picking up after dogs, one being that not doing it plays into the hands of hound haters seeking to further restrict dogs’ already limited access to the natural world.

Also, dog crap doesn’t enrich the soil. It’s packed with harmful bacteria and nutrients that inhibit plant growth, pollute waterways and cause diseases in humans. And with an estimated 900 million dogs in the world (five million of them in Oz), each producing an average of 340 grams of waste per day, that’s a shitload of soiled shoes and potential pollution.

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Debate continues over the wisdom of confining this methane-producing stuff to landfill, even in the biodegradable bags provided by most councils. Composting at high temperatures is an emerging solution, but not yet in commercially viable ways. (Cats, of course, rarely dump on pavements because most of them are free to wander and prefer a more natural setting.)

Finally, while in a confessing mood, I hereby admit to occasionally wiping Alfie’s bum after a runny poop. But not as a matter of course, like some weird Americans. Because unlike humans, whose progression to two legs left them with a problematic set of buttocks, dogs normally don’t need to wipe. Which is a merciful thing, given that evolution in recent months led some on an inexplicable hunt to gather the planet’s entire supply of toilet paper for themselves.