We are used to the impolite plague of dog excrement and many of us are infuriated by dog owners who allow their best friend to foul the pavements of our neighbourhoods. In fact, Brits in Spain might be forgiven for thinking this social no no of leaving the do do had not reached the communities of Spain with the same level of success as it has done on our once fairer shores.
It may come as a bit of a surprise then that the local authorities have embarked on an enthusiastic public awareness campaign against the blight of dog pee!
Yes, the local council will distribute 19,000 bottles for dog owners to fill with a solution of 3 parts water, 1 part vinegar to enable them to clean their dog's water excretion in public spaces. The campaign was launched by Natalie Chueca, the municipal councillor for Public Services on Monday 20th July 2020.
The 125mililitre bottles will be provided for free by various volunteer groups alongside the Municipal Centre for Animal Protection. The city-wide campaign is first focusing on the areas that municipal cleaning services have reported highest numbers of incidents, Delicias, Casco Histórico, El Rabal and La Almozara. Most incidents seem to focus n narrow crowded streets or close to parks and green areas.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the corrosion caused by dog urine and in this time of extreme hygiene and disinfection, and especially in the summer months, the dilution of dog pee is encouraged. Currently, Zaragoza have no plans to enact potential sanctions for dog urination, preferring to encourage responsible self-policing from the citizens of the city. Other areas of Spain have introduced fines for dog walkers not cleaning the bladder releases of their companions. Sevilla and the region of the Costa del Sol introducing fines of up to €750.
Corrosion could well be the strongest angle available to local authorities to convince dog owners to clean up. We all know dogs use their pee as a territorial marker and as such, many dogs may pee in the same spot repeatedly over the course of a day. Whilst this may look or smell unpleasant the real danger could be the acidic corrosion of metal street furniture such as railings, street signs or lighting.
Zaragoza has about 60,000 registered dogs and the cleaning services collects up to 13,000 kilos of excrement annually. Natalie Chueca has been quoted as stating that Zaragoza is recognised as one of the cleanest cities in Spain, a boast that is often supported by many Ex Pats except when it comes to the uncomfortable issue of dog waste.
The battle against dog excrement is by no means a victory in changing social habits. Many Brits who have moved to Zaragoza notice the amount of dog waste on the streets. It is often observed that dog owners take their pets for short trips around the block for their toilet break so leaving dog waste on the pavements almost directly outside their home shows a distinct lack of social responsibility.
Dave, 32, from Tadcaster, seemed unimpressed with the latest campaign. “Once they learn to pick up the poo we can start talking about the wee. I thought there were fines for leaving dog mess on the street and there is still tonnes of it about. If people cannot be bothered to pick up the poo, why would they wash down any wee?” Maria, a native of Zaragoza, was equally unmoved. “Urine? In the streets?” She retorts, “Most of the wee in the streets of my barrio is from drunk guys after a night in the disco. Do they need to carry little bottles too?”
Mark, an English teacher from Daventry had more to add. “They are chasing up dog owners but I still see parents taking their kids to pee under roadside trees....this is a joke right?”