It’s a common sight to see dog owners taking their pets out for a walk, and the latter using the opportunity to relieve themselves. But it is rare to see a pet owner picking up the waste left behind by their pets, instead of allowing it to lie on the road. While there have been concerted efforts to discourage open defecation in Pune, city authorities have done little to keep public spaces free of animal faeces.
In the absence of any law to make pet owners clean up the waste, very few of them bother to do so. Most of them point to the littered public places or ask questions like “What about street dogs? Who is stopping them from littering public roads?”. Many believe that if their pet dog relieves itself outside their residence, then it’s the responsibility of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to clean it up. “I own two dogs and they generally don’t defecate outside the house… but when they do so in the society premises, I don’t clean it myself, the cleaning staff does. If the dogs relieve themselves on the streets, there’s no need to bother as the PMC staff or sweepers clean it… if it urinates on someone’s door, I clean it,” said Rajwardhan Jarag, a resident of Ramnagar Society, Katraj.
A few mohalla committees in the city have taken steps to make pet owners behave more responsibly. As per SM Kamble, a sanitary Inspector with the Ghole Road ward office of the PMC, the Bhosale Nagar Mohalla Committee has repeatedly followed up on the issue and even requested the PMC’s Solid Waste Management Department to fine dog owners if they refuse to clean up after their dogs.“We started to implement the fine system last year. We also tried to raise awareness by approaching residential societies… we have put up notices in societies in areas such as Bhosale Nagar, Apte Road, Model Colony, Mangalwadi Society off S B Road.
Some pet owners respond positively, others don’t,” said Kamble. He said his personnel have imposed fines of Rs 500 fine on several pet owners for “littering public places”, but this has led to acrimonious exchanges. Uma Karve, who runs a pet shop as well as a quarterly magazine for pet owners, blamed the ‘laziness’ of dog owners. However, she said that penalising the dog owners won’t work, but raising awareness may yield results.
According to Malati Gadgil of SwaCH, wastepickers and road sweepers often face issues due to the dog waste lying on the road. Another issue is that even if the owners pick after their dogs and drop the waste in the garbage bin, there’s no way to segregate it. “It’s mixed with the wet or dry waste… the solution could be for the PMC to have separate bins for dog waste, which can then be picked up and used for biogas production. Also, it’s a must to have more bins along the road,” said Malati. Of course, some pet owners do consider it their responsibility to clean up after their dogs. Priya Mulgund, a resident of Apte Colony, said “… Whenever we take our dog Tosho out, and he defecates, we carry a bag and clean it ourselves. It’s important to keep the area hygienic….”