Prague 6 appeals to dog-owners to clean-up after their pooch


Who let the dogs out?! And who, after letting them out, forgot to scoop up afterwards? That's a question addressed by a new campaign launched by the Prague 6 town hall. It features the slogan "Please clean up, so everybody likes us" - the dogs that is - and the idea is to shame dog-owners into doing their bit, and cleaning up after their pet. But, not all owners are getting the message.

Walking down a Prague street can be an exercise in navigation and Praguers have long complained about people who let their dogs "go" anywhere, even on a busy sidewalk. The problem becomes more serious when you consider parks and bacterial diseases like toxocariasis, which can lead to severe eye damage or blindness. For obvious reasons children at play in public areas are at greatest risk. Even so, some owners still let their dogs foul up the public space.

"Yes, I have a dog, but I don't clean up. I don't want to, because most of the time I'm in a rush."

"I guess it is the owners' duty but it's impossible to always keep your dog on the leash. The rest of us just have to be a bit careful [on the sidewalk]. I think the situation is bearable."

But, city officials do not. And, to try and change the situation, Prague 6 is betting on its new campaign. A friendly new poster shows pooches of all kinds addressing dog owners to scoop up. The image will be featured at a chain of supermarkets, and on garbage bins, and benches around town.

But, will it work? Tomas Chalupa, the mayor of Prague 6, certainly hopes so.

"You know, I think people are still decent at heart and this is an appeal for fairness. If people are not going to behave accordingly - it will only cost the city even more."

Some studies in Great Britain have suggested that aggressive ads are probably more effective, though the impact remains difficult to gauge. In the Czech Republic it is still an open question: some owners remain so inconsiderate that even an abrasive ad from last year - which showed a dog and its owner defecating together on the street - was probably not enough. Some people still insist it's not their problem, others pay the price:

"All the time, you know, you take sh** off the street."

Jan: You pick it up?

"Yeah, I pick it up, yeah."

Jan: What about when other people don't?

"[I tell them] 'pick up, pick up the sh**!' They just smile and I don't know what to say!"

"I'm not a big fan of everybody owning a dog, but if they do then they should take care of it. I have seven grandchildren and every once in a while one of them steps in poo. So, I can't be happy about that."

Prague 6, like other municipalities, has thrown immense efforts and finances into keeping streets clean, providing bags and bins for owners to dispose of their dogs' waste. Bins, currently numbering 300, for example, will be increased by 100 by next year. Now, it's just a matter of getting people to notice.

In a 2nd phase of the campaign police officers will hand out fliers, perhaps also a reminder that those who fail to scoop after their dogs could face the equivalent of a 40 dollar fine.

Fines, however, are rarely handed out.

Prague 6 registered just 25 cases last year. People walking their dogs often fail to carry id with them or cash, adding to the problem. And, city officials say, if it does look like someone might be fined, dog owners are suddenly very conscientious, some going as far as taking their animal's excrement in their bare hands when there's a policeman around.