Published:Sunday, 27 February 2000
There are around 17 dogs to every 100 people in France, one of the highest ratios in the world, and an unofficial dog population of some 10m (over 500,000 in Paris alone). Around 40 per cent of French people list their dogs as the most important thing in their lives (even more important than their lovers!) and the French spend some €3 billion on them annually;
On the other hand, many dogs are kept outdoors and some are almost permanently penned. It’s rare to see French people walking their dogs (except for ‘show’).
The unpleasant aspect of France’s vast dog population is abundantly evident on the pavements of towns and cities, where dogs routinely leave their ‘calling cards’ (officially known as déjections canines). You must alwayswatch where you walk: many pavements aren’t trottoirs but ‘ crottoirs’. Over 600 Parisians are hospitalised every year after slipping on dog dirt, and there’s a national association of mothers called Inter-Mamans, who have threatened to ‘donate’ their children’s soiled nappies to mayors throughout France unless they take action to clear the streets of dog mess! In Paris and some other cities, there are dog toilet areas. However, most dog owners take their pets to a local park or car park or simply let them loose in the streets to do their business, although allowing your pooch to poop on the pavement is illegal and you can be fined up to €450 if you don’t ‘scoop’ up after it.
At the very least, owners are required to take their pets to the kerb to relieve themselves; you’re reminded by dog silhouettes on the footpath in Paris and other cities, where signs encourage owners to teach their dogs to use gutters (‘ Apprenez-lui le caniveau’), which are regularly cleaned and disinfected. The capital’s patrols of motorised pooper-scoopers ( moto-crottes), which once picked up four tonnes of doggy-do daily, are being phased out in favour of ‘hygiene inspectors’ dishing out on-the-spot fines. (Although it’s little consolation, it’s supposedly good luck to tread in something unpleasant.)