In the recent Incident of the Abandoned Ford Thunderbird, the Sooke resident who found the junked car, complete with registration papers, in the woods near Bear Creek posted a scathing rant online and notified police.
Instead of immediately fining the car’s owner under the conservation and motor vehicle acts, the RCMP turned the incident into a learning opportunity. They gave the owner a choice: Remove and properly dispose of the vehicle within a given time or face fines of up to $3,000.
The media and online coverage reminded us all of the laws against dumping garbage and unwanted goods on private and public lands.
The Capital Regional District defines illegal dumping as any activity by which waste materials are intentionally disposed of in an unauthorized location.
This includes abandoning used goods on sidewalks, in alleyways and in other public spaces. It includes the dumping of waste on logging roads and other rural spaces, and other ways of ridding oneself of garbage at another’s expense.
A 2011 survey of the region’s municipalities, recycling depots and non-profit recycling organizations indicates the most common materials illegally discarded here are furniture and mattresses, and the most frequent locations are along municipal boulevards.
I beg to differ. Far fewer sofas, mattresses and so on are left to rot along the region’s roadways in any given month than bags full of dog doo are left to decorate the bushes, trees and trails of our parks and green spaces. This, despite municipalities’ and region’s poo-picking requirements and bylaws signed and posted at entrances to parks and schoolyards. Strolls through Mount Douglas Park, for example, turn up about a dozen fresh, new bags of fresh, new doo every few days.
And while collecting this kind of trash doesn’t require big trucks or massive loading equipment, it, too, according to the CRD definition, constitutes illegal dumping.
So to speak.
It’s all rather confounding. Why go to all the effort to pick up after your dog and tie a neat-and-tidy knot in the bag, just to leave it — ahem — behind? The point of the bag is to contain the doo hygienically for its subsequent journey to a trash can or outhouse, or — failing those public amenities — home to the family garbage bin.
Granted, most dog owners conscientiously collect and responsibly dispose of their pets’ droppings — even if it’s their least favourite dog-related duty. Only a relatively few dog owners make up the ranks of poorly trained, possibly narcissistic, tending-to-antisocial, self-rationalizing, illegal dog-doo dumpers.
How the doo-baggies are arranged causes me to wonder what is going on in the owners’ frontal lobes while their dogs are dumping their back-end loads. Sure, some bags are unceremoniously plopped alongside trails, as if they accidentally fell and were left behind.
But others are placed like sacred offerings on tree-stump pedestals. Some are arranged like religious icons or tucked like bags of treasure in tree cavities. And some are hung like Christmas ornaments on branches.
Are the owners expecting those who follow to admire and appreciate their artistry and efforts? Are these instances of the attitude of “Love me, love my dog (doo)” taken to the extreme? Are the owners expecting the poo fairy to come tripping along to collect the baggies — and perhaps leave money in exchange?
The Incident of the Abandoned Ford Thunderbird demonstrates that incriminating evidence will be used to identify and track down illegal dumpers. Some condo associations in Canada and the U.S. have found a way to obtain incriminating evidence from dogs that dump and owners who dump the dump. They are creating registries of the DNA of residents’ dogs. By matching the DNA in droppings to the dogs that dumped, these new poo police are fingering and fining errant dog owners.
The condo associations using the technique report significant drops in droppings.
Now some major cities — Jerusalem and Naples, for example — are scaling these doo-tracking efforts to populations in the millions.
I see a new forensic crime drama appearing on a TV near you: CSI – K9 Number 2.