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Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 07:20 GMT 08:20 UK
Plus ca change in Paris pavement war?
French cobbled street
MInd how you go: Paris pavements are a peril
By Hugh Schofield in Paris

This time they're serious. Really. If Paris dog-owners are going to keep letting their pets foul the pavement, then the city authorities are going to get tough.

No more finger-wagging. No more looking the other way. Now it's thousand franc fines and "re-education" - and a promise to clean up the capital's polluted streets by autumn 2002.


Many Parisians - especially those of a certain age - are selfish and bloody-minded individuals who give an aggressive Gallic shrug when you dare to suggest their behaviour is anti-social

If only. The trouble is that the Hotel de Ville's new plan to put an end to the city's shameful tolerance of the "crotte de chien" must be viewed historically - as the latest in a succession of well-intentioned but ultimately hopeless efforts to change the habits of 200,000 repeat offenders.

Deputy Mayor Yves Contassot is nothing if not a devotee of the cause. And he has quite rightly identified the reasons why past campaigns have failed.

First, such fines as there are have been minimal and fitfully imposed.

Second, the existence of a hyper-efficient street-cleaning system encourages owners to think that pavement-pooping is acceptable.

And third, telling them to use the gutters is a waste of time when the roads are all blocked by cars.


The main problem has been the lack of political courage - politicians saw dog-owners as voters, so they did nothing

Deputy Mayor Yves Contassot
To which might be added a fourth: that many Parisians - especially those of a certain age - are selfish and bloody-minded individuals who give an aggressive Gallic shrug when you dare to suggest their behaviour is anti-social.

And so we must all salute the initiative by Mr Contassot, a Green Party member who joined the new left-wing administration after its victory in March's elections.

His plans are undoubtedly the most ambitious to date:

  • A municipal decree is being prepared to make removal of faeces compulsory - even when they have been deposited in the gutter
  • Plastic-bag dispensers will be set up in more than a hundred sites across the city
  • "Educators" will be employed to encourage the civic spirit.

In addition, the capital's 2,000 traffic-wardens will be given powers to impose fines for offenses to public cleanliness, and the city's fleet of "moto-crottes" - the green bulbous-reared motorbike-cum-vacuum cleaners - is being phased out.

"The main problem has been the lack of political courage," Mr Contassot told me.

"Politicians saw dog-owners as voters, so they did nothing."


As a father-of-three who has to marshal his children through an obstacle-course of excreta on the way to school every morning, I fervently want to believe

So can we at last hope that this plague will soon be over; that the 15 tonnes of turds laid every day will be placed in bins or flushed down lavatories; that the 50m franc cleaning bill (three francs a pop) will be spent elsewhere?

As a father of three who has to marshal his children through an obstacle-course of excreta on the way to school every morning, I fervently want to believe.

The trouble is I remember the other initiatives: the white dachshunds drawn on the pavement; the Ronald Searle posters in 1991 saying "use the gutter;" the shock campaign two years ago with the child playing with turd-pies.

And so far nothing has come between the proud Parisian and his constitutional right to treat the thoroughfare as a public toilet.

See also:

01 Oct 99 | Europe
Paris gets tough on dog excrement
05 Jun 01 | UK
Beach appeal to dog owners
06 Jan 00 | Europe
Last day for pitbull lovers
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