Liz Kearney: 'It stinks when dog owners don't clean up'
There are 900 million dogs in the world, and sometimes it feels as though they have all congregated, as one, and chosen my favourite woodland walk as their collective toilet.
At this time of year, the entire looped route, from the car park through to the thickest part of the forest, resembles a treasure trail of poo so revolting that by the time you return to your car, instead of luxuriating in the benefits of a peaceful spot of forest bathing, you're silently seething and mentally rehearsing the vitriol you'll unleash on the next irresponsible dog owner who turns a blind eye to their pooch's misdemeanours.
I don't think I'd mind as much if it wasn't for the kids, who have an uncanny ability to locate the biggest turd on any pathway and make a beeline for it, and then traipse happily back into the house oblivious to the trail of horror in their wake.
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But it's a delicate subject to raise in company, because there are few things more likely to start World War III among the otherwise peaceful denizens of suburbia than when and where the neighbourhood's pups do their business - and whether or not their owners clean up after them.
Virtually everyone can take offence. People without pets are disgusted by the filth. Parents fear for their children's health and think dog-owners are a selfish bunch who only think of themselves. Responsible dog owners feel hard done by, too, because they don't like the dirty looks from neighbours who mistakenly finger little Fido for the crime of leaving a steaming pile outside their front gate. And then there are the dog owners who exist in a glorious guilt-free bubble, and simply don't give a crap where their dog craps.
I like dogs, but I am heartily sick of having to clean their waste off small children's shoes on an all-too-frequent basis, or the fact that a large part of each walk consists of my screaming "MIND!" in the hope that they'll spot the next delightful deposit on the pavement in time to avoid it.
Admittedly, there has been a welcome change in suburban dog owners - the majority I see walking around the town where I live are scrupulous about scooping the poop. So perhaps the reason the woods are so bad is because dogs are off the leash and their owners genuinely can't see what they're up to?
Or perhaps, as a dog-owning friend suggests, it's because owners know they're less likely to be poop-shamed in the forest than on the main street.
Whatever the reason, it's disgusting. And dangerous, obviously, for small kids. In a world where dogs are now treated more like kings than canines, perhaps it's time owners showed the rest of us the same courtesy.
Social media has a role in tackling anti-vaxxers
Simon Harris's admission that he "instinctively agrees" with the idea of banning unvaccinated children from schools and crèches is a welcome sign that the Government is taking the growing problem of vaccine "hesitancy" very seriously.
But is forcing parents to take healthcare decisions - however sensible - a good idea? At a time when diseases like measles, which medics thought were set to die out, are on the rise again, governments are right to consider what measures they can take to curb the spread of dangerous false information, but many parents would be uncomfortable with the idea of being strong-armed.
Perhaps more effective would be encouraging social media sites, home to much anti-vaxx rhetoric, to take responsibility. One welcome move came yesterday, when crowdfunding service GoFundMe said it would no longer permit anti-vaccination campaigns on the grounds that they represent a "public health risk".
Let's hope they are setting a trend.