Be warned! Foreign Affairs departments go to great lengths to ensure their citizens know the dangers of being a tourist in Paris. Protect personal belongings; beware of bag snatching and pickpocketing; avoid demonstrations and political rallies; avoid public transport from airports to Paris; beware of ATM scams and credit card fraud. Above all, watch where you walk and don’t put your foot in it, poo that is, Paris poo.
Paris is the world’s capital when it comes to poo-littered footpaths. The city is home to more than 300,000 dogs who leave behind about 20 tonnes of evidence daily.
Tourists stand out from the locals when it comes to walking around Paris. The locals seem to know the safe places to tread as if they have poo radar in their shoes. The tourists, however, survey every inch of the path as if walking through a minefield. Paris is not the place to try out those newly purchased designer shoes.
French dogs are not obsessive and have no preferred place to unload. When I think I have them figured out, I become unstuck or, should I say, stuck.
And they are no respecter of persons. They are just as likely to dump in the Place Vendome as they are in the narrow streets of the Marais. The only difference is that the proprietors of the Ritz hotel and the Chanel and Cartier boutiques will remove the evidence faster than those in the Marais.
And this is the Paradox of Paris. The tolerance for poo littered streets in a city renowned for style, elegance and taste.
Who is to blame for this sticky problem? Not the dogs, surely. After all, they can’t clean up after themselves. They can be trained to poo in a particular spot, but someone still needs to pick up after them.
French efforts to train the owners haven’t had much success. Strategically placed receptacles replete with plastic bags, free poop scoopers, and motorised vacuum cleaners. The guilty merely say, “it’s not my responsibility; I pay my taxes, let the Town Hall clean it up”.
Over the years, the guardians of Paris streets have increased the number of inspectors, and owners can be fined up to 400 euros. Imagine furtive poolice hiding behind light poles waiting to pounce on unsuspecting Mimi, the Pomeranian.
Pooing fines may have increased three-fold, but I suspect completely solving the problem will be like pushing a cart of crotes de chien up a moss-covered hill.
The dogs are not the villains in this story; their owners are. But to appreciate the problem and to put it into context, one needs to understand the French love of dogs. I know. I’m married to a French woman, and we have two golden retrievers who live in our house. They can do no wrong; they are our children.
Pet dogs in Paris enjoy the freedom of the city. They hang out on shopping trolleys, and handbags and hitch rides on bicycles and motor scooters. They have the right of passage on buses, trams and trains. They relax underfoot in cafes and accompany owners into shops. They have numerous gardens and parks to roam about and are free to pee anywhere to their heart’s content. Imagine hanging out with your mates in the Jardins des Tuileries or the Le Jardin du Luxembourg. And what about those tile-lined Metro entrances?
In addition, Paris has some of the best pet shops in the world, such as BHV La Niche in the Marais. They have everything for the pampered pooches, including designer-made beds, carriers (all European brands), leashes, collars, clothing and grooming supplies. This shop regularly puts on Defile les VIP de La Niche (catwalk for dogs). Such is this event’s reputation, the store can block off the street outside.