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Schoolyard dog feces problem could use some children’s sense
When students at Osoyoos Elementary School play rugby in their schoolyard, they have to watch out for more than just the ball and the other players.
All too often, they slip and slide in dog feces left on the field by inconsiderate dog owners.
Sometimes, when they catch a ball, it is covered in some dog’s mess.
Younger children track dog poop into the school, where it gets embedded into the carpet and other children sit in it.
Several students in Grades 6 and 7 have taken the initiative to raise awareness of this problem. They are even sending letters to parents asking them to be more adult and responsible.
These students insist that the poop problem is an almost daily occurrence. In a short walk around the schoolyard they are able to point to one clump after another.
The Parent Advisory Council (PAC) met last week to discuss the issue, and according to school board chair Marieze Tarr, they will be asking town council to install posts with dog poop bags.
They don’t want to ban dogs completely, she said, even though schools like Cawston have done exactly that.
The assumption here is that irresponsible dog owners who can’t be bothered to clean up after their dogs will suddenly do the right thing if politely asked and given bags for their convenience.
While having bags available may prompt some dog owners to do the right thing, we don’t think this is good enough.
As the students’ teacher Ryan Miller points out, expecting dog owners to stoop and scoop leaves too much grey area.
It is simply too easy for a dog owner to look the other way when a dog does its business, knowing that probably no one is watching and they’ll get away with it.
In a town where bylaw enforcement is usually complaint driven and tends to be after the fact, it is too easy for irresponsible dog owners to ignore a law that is difficult to enforce.
To say that putting students in contact with dog excrement is a health hazard is an understatement.
Dog feces can spread such parasites as hookworms, ringworms, tapeworms and salmonella to the children who contact it.
It is teaming with E. Coli and fecal coliform bacteria that can even cause kidney disorders, intestinal problems, cramps and diarrhea.
Even if responsible owners do clean up poop after their dogs, they are unlikely to clean up urine, which children will roll around in.
It is precisely for these reasons that many municipalities, large and small, ban dogs from schoolyards completely.
While some communities leave such policies to school boards or individual schools, many pass municipal bylaws, which carry more weight.
It’s far easier to enforce a bylaw that prohibits dogs from being in a schoolyard completely than to catch a dog in the act and prove that the owner was aware of it and did nothing.
Osoyoos has an excellent dog park near the high school for those who want to let their dogs have a good run. And there are plenty of other places where dog owners can take their pets on shorter walks.
The students who raised this issue should be commended. They are getting an excellent civics lesson as they learn firsthand how to bring about change on an important issue.
We hope these youngsters will take this to town council and prevail upon the adults to show some common sense.