Dogs face being BANNED from parks as poo and urine ‘substantially’ harming environment

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Researchers suggest dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets at parks are likely damaging the environment and wildlife. According to a new study, dog faeces and urine contain significant amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen. When left in nature reserves, these excess chemicals can result in over-fertilisation of the ground.

This can have an adverse impact on a variety of plant and animal life and interactions between species.

The scientists called for a ban on dogs from ​​parks, or for keeping canines on leads in sensitive areas.

They also suggested alternative “nearby off-leash dog parks” and highlighted the need for dog owners to pick up after their pets.

They said: “Dogs bring in significant amounts of nutrients into ecosystems, but this disturbance and its associated effects on biodiversity have been often neglected so far.”

The study, published in the journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence, said: “Dogs appear to be a non-negligible, substantial and underestimated source of nutrients into peri-urban ecosystems.”

It continued: “It is clear that the levels of fertilisation by dogs estimated here can potentially exert negative effects on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of species-rich vegetation that are often pursued in forest and nature management.

“Higher nutrient levels lead to increased plant growth, mostly by a limited number of nutrient-demanding species that will outcompete specialists, particularly by taking away the available light causing plant species loss.”

For this study, the scientists counted 1,629 dogs in peri-urban forests and nature reserves near Ghent in Belgium over the course of 18 months.

They found the dogs were leaving an estimated annual average of 11kg of nitrogen and 5kg of phosphorous per hectare, which they described as “substantial”.

The researchers said: “Based on our results, we propose land managers, especially in ecosystems with species adapted to nutrient-poor soils, take actions to stimulate visitors to take away solid faecal waste (the most important source of Phosphorus) by emphasizing the fertilization effect of their dogs in addition to other more widely known negative impacts, for example on wildlife.”

They also suggested that local governments and parks officials “enforce leash use more stringently, establish more off-leash dog parks and consider more often entire dog bans in oligotrophic ecosystems.”

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The scientists warned that leaving dog faeces exposed could lead to the spread of diseases.

They continued: “In addition, removing dog faeces prevents the infection of grazing animals with zoonotic diseases, such as Neospora caninum.

“Dogs are the definitive hosts of this obligate intracellular parasite, but many other animal species can get infected.

“In wild ruminants like roe deer, but especially domesticated grazers like cattle and sheep, infection with Neospora is a main cause of abortion.”

They also stated that the common ‘stick and flick’ strategy, used by the Forestry Commission in Britain to reduce the nuisance of treading in dog faeces, “is to be avoided.”

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