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Behest of the West: Tofino and Ucluelet share a serious poop problem

We’re both the cause of it and the solution. Let’s start by thinking personally and acting locally.
Local canines

It all started with an, ‘Oh no.’

Three-year-old Jr. shouted it out while I was cooking my kids breakfast two Thursdays ago.

In hindsight, I wasn’t worried enough about what I was rushing towards. Toddlers tend to hit the panic button early and often and, when they cry for help, you never know what you’re going to get.

I’ve scrambled to save the day just to be notified of bugs outside windows, shown impromptu dance moves, or asked where the moon is.

In this case, it was poop and it was everywhere. Jr’s diaper had failed him.

I tripped into the playroom and made the rookie mistake of swooping him up and rushing him out. Apparently it was amateur hour.

Any good hero knows the first step in a crisis is to assess the situation. Had I done that, I would have isolated the twins before carting their brother off. I didn’t do that and, by the time he was safely hosed off and in the bath, poop was more places.

If you don’t have kids and need some perspective on what it’s like to be surrounded by poop, it’s easy to obtain. Just take a walk to your nearest park or trail. It’s a toilet out there and, unfortunately, steam cleaning the environment isn’t an option.

Around this time every year, spring’s sun lures us out into our favourite surrounding.

It’s an annual reminder of how irresponsible we are about our pet’s excrement. The most frustrating time of the year. Season’s angstings.

A lot of us are dog owners and a lot of us pick up after our pets, but enough of us don’t that it’s become a legitimate problem.

Those that don’t are a growing contingent and they’re casting a harsh cloud over those that do.

Like our perpetually growing tourist seasons, spring’s poop showcase is showing no signs of slowing.

We can do better and we must do better because it’s not just an embarrassing eyesore that gives tourists a reason to turn up their noses up at us and scoff at our ‘Keep it Clean’ messaging. Dog feces contain toxic bacteria that seeps into soil and penetrates water sources.

Unpicked up poop is how parvovirus, spreads between dogs and it can force a disgusting buffet of destructively gross worms and diseases into humans. It’s serious and widespread enough that drastic measures are being investigated throughout the province and the fight is getting pretty darn scientific.

In 2015, tenants of an apartment building in Burnaby were reportedly asked by their landlord to provide samples of their dogs’ poop so that each resident dog’s DNA could be recorded. That way, any poop left to linger could be traced back to the owner who failed to pick it up.

Last month, Black Press’ Ashley Wadhwani reported on Vancouver councillor Mary-Ann Booth’s desire to create a local dog DNA registry.

We are not mainlanders. We shouldn’t need science police to combat our laziness. We live here because we love here.

We love our neighbours too, but sometimes that love’s got to go the tough route. ‘Please pick up after your pet’ hasn’t worked and isn’t working. Tofino and Ucluelet have enough bag dispensers around town that forgetting one isn’t an excuse.

Bylaw officers aren’t the solution. Ucluelet’s bylaw department consists of one officer who is tasked-out on dealing with the district’s illegal accommodation crackdown.

Tofino is more advanced. They’ve got a team on their accomodation crackdown with officers leftover to patrol their town. Those officers won’t crack the canine case though. They specialize in parking tickets and dispersing campfires.

The poop problem is up to locals to solve. We’re both the cause of it and the solution.

Let’s start by thinking personally and acting locally.

Step one is picking up your own dog’s poop. Stop being squeamish and start being scrupulous.

Each local who converts from irresponsible mess creator to Team Picks-it-up will push the dial in a healthy direction.

Step two is talking about it. The more socially unacceptable something becomes, the harder it is to do.

It wouldn’t hurt to give some locals the authority to dish out fines to anyone they spot leaving a fresh pile. Do we have the volunteer spirit for a Neighbourhood Dog Watch?


Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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