A new poster by Bristol City Council - designed to encourage dog owners to pick up their pet's mess from public places - is causing controversy.
It shows a cute toddler at a playground with her hands and face plastered in chocolate/muck/poo (delete as you feel appropriate) alongside a slogan saying 'children will put anything in their mouths'.
Below her picture sits a snapshot of a pile of dog mess steaming in the park grass, with a message demanding that dog owners 'pick it up or face an £80 fine.' The poster also encourages whistleblowers to report pooch owners who don't bag it and bin it.
What a great campaign. Don't you think? The image of the gorgeous, innocent toddler smeared in muck alongside the offensive pile of poo will surely prick the conscience of at least a few careless dog owners into clearing up after their canines?
But many people seem to think the poster campaign is a step too far. Some Twitter users were shocked and disgusted by the images – with TV illusionist Derren Brown spreading the word with a tongue in cheek 'I miss Bristol!' comment when he retweeted a picture of the poster from another user who had been put off his breakfast by it.Bristol City Council responded with a tweet saying: 'Shocking imagery, but perhaps it will help encourage a few more dog owners to do the responsible thing.' Here, here BCC, and other councils who are using the poster campaign.
Other bloggers declared the parents of the chocolate-smeared child 'irresponsible' for letting their daughter be the poster girl 'who ate poo' and yet others say the poster is too gross to even look at.
Even the BBC obscured the pile of pooch poo from the poster in an online report about the campaign, so as not to 'offend'.
How ridiculous. Looking at dog poo in a picture isn't the offensive bit.
I'll tell you what IS offensive.
Stepping in the stuff. When you're wearing a pair of flip-flops. Walking your buggy wheels through a cleverly-concealed mound of it and never quite being able to remove it (or the whiff) from the grooves. Prising it out of your toddler's nails with a makeshift lollipop stick whilst simultaneously retching after they've manage to fall almost face first into a pile of pooch poo thoughtfully deposited in a children's sandpit.
Bitter? Twisted? Moi? Absolutely. My children and I have stepped and squelched in enough dog mess at local parks and beauty spots for me to have developed the ability to instantly raise my hackles when I see a dog-walker without a doggy mess-bag on show.
And notice it's not the dogs I blame. I like them. They're mostly cute, sweet or at least nice-enough. It's the (minority) of dog-owners who somehow think it's fine to let their pet spread a stink (and possible disease) in areas where children play.
In fact, I'd go as far as to say that picking up your pet mess isn't enough. If your dog has pooed in an area that children are going to be running around in, then perhaps you could spritz some disinfectant spray on the spot too, please? (shop around for stuff that doesn't kill the grass, though). And if your dog has diarrhoea? Don't let him poo in public. You'll never manage to clean it completely off the grass. Unless you happen to have a power hose on you, that is.
When children have a tummy bug, we have to keep them off school for days after the bug has cleared up so they don't infect other class members, so maybe dog owners should afford other dogs (and children) the same sort of courtesy and keep them at home to do their doggy business when their bowels aren't behaving.
Of course I know that my comments will infuriate many a dog-owner out there. Especially those deluded ones who somehow place their dogs' rights above those of children's.
Let me explain.
Since becoming a parent, I've become acutely aware of a dichotomy amongst dog-owners. The majority are responsible pet-owners who scrupulously care for and clean up after their pets, keep them well-disciplined and are aware of a pet's place in the family and society (ie you have to keep your dog under control in a public place).
Then there's the minority, who have no control over their pets and often place their pooches' feelings and right on a par with or above those of children when in a public place.
Those are the dog-owners who treat their pets like spoilt children, who almost chastise your toddler for crying in alarm when their unleashed badly-behaved mutt leaps up at him. "Tut, tut...don't make a fuss, she's only being friendly..' they say. Or: 'Oh, dear, isn't he sensitive? Here...come and stroke Archie. COME ON. STROKE HIM. HE WANTS TO GIVE YOU A KISS!'
I'll never forget the day when a bull terrier repeatedly jumped up at my youngest son in the park, attempting to nab the balloon he was holding. The dog's owner kept casually calling him away but – like a naughty toddler – he completely ignored her.
Eventually, when the enthusiastic brute knocked my three-year-old to the floor, she came sauntering up and gently coaxed her stocky pooch away by his collar without so much as a 'bad dog' retort at him. Pah! I told her to put him on a lead to which she retorted: 'Oh, what a fuss, he just loves balloons....put your kids on a lead!'
Now, I'm not necessarily saying that she then went on to leave her doggy-dos in the park, but to me, she is just as irresponsible as the dog-owners who do.
And, though no one will admit to it, there are thousands of lazy dog-owners who let their pets (secretly) make their mark in public, potentially ruining a pair of shoes, a fun day out, or worse....causing an infection and spreading disease.
Whether it's because they simply don't care about the next child that may walk in it, can't be bothered to bend over and poop-scoop, think their dog's poo is a gift from heaven to be shared, or are making some sort of weird statement, who knows?Whatever the case. It's not big. It's not clever. And I hope they get caught. And fined.
Or that they walk in some other dog's diarrhoea. In flip-flops.
What do you think?