Dog walkers are being targeted by environmentalists in a drive to stem the mountain of bagged animal dirt left littering the countryside and polluting rivers and seas each year.
A new campaign from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) aims to highlight the risk to human health and the environment from dog poo that has been picked up by pet owners but then not properly disposed of.
Animal waste is one of the many seemingly small sources of pollution that can add up to big problems for people and the planet, according to the charity.
Huge amounts of dog poo, shrink-wrapped in plastic bags, was found on the UK’s beaches during the MCS Great British Beach Clean last year.
A whopping 792 bags were picked up by volunteers at 364 beaches during just one weekend in September 2016.
But the true scale of the problem is unknown since litter-picking teams do not record unbagged animal waste – some estimates suggest 40 per cent is not cleaned up.
Conservationists say owners who carry plastic poo bags when out walking their dogs may seem responsible, but not if they don’t take the full bags home and leave them hanging in trees, slung on verges or stashed behind rocks.
Emma Cunningham, senior pollution campaigns officer for the MCS, said: “We’re delighted that pet owners can enjoy dog-friendly beaches and clearly think ahead by carrying poop-scoop bags. But please take the bag off the beach and bin it.
“Leaving a bag full of poo on the beach will result in preserved excrement, protected from the elements for years by a bag which could take a very long time to break down.
“Dog poo is a source of high levels of bacteria and can lead to reduced water quality, and poses a human health risk.”
There are around nine million pet dogs in the UK, which produce 1,000 tonnes of waste every day. Dog excrement is an environmental pollutant. It contains around twice as much bacteria as the human equivalent and can pass on diseases and viruses such as E Coli and Coccidia. It often contains parasites such as worms.
The charity’s new Know your Poos and Don’ts, includes a series of colourful cartoons to help get the message across.
Ms Cunningham says the campaign goes a step further than a basic pollution message and brings home how basic things we do in our daily lives – often miles away from the coast – can have a massive effect on the cleanliness of coastal waters.
She added: “The downloadable fun graphics are highly shareable and are all relevant to different areas of life, like walking the dog, going to the bathroom or being in the kitchen. The series of five images show how your actions can really affect our beaches and seas.”