Dirty Dogs Campaign: 101 ways to clean up after 101 Dalmatians: Grab it, spear it, shovel it . . . There are numerous weird and inventive devices for clearing up dog mess. Rosanna de Lisle tests them out

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Indy Lifestyle Online
THE SEARCH for solutions to the problem of dog fouling has spawned an industry dedicated to cleaning up the mess. The Independent on Sunday Dirty Dogs Campaign's post-bag has been crowded with all sorts of inventions sent by their makers - from the simple and practical to the fantastic and hopeless. Even a brief survey shows many ways to catch a dog mess: you can grab it, spear it, clamp it, shovel it.

The smallest, cheapest and most available kit is the poop- scoop. This can be anything from a basic plastic bag to an elaborate contraption in several bits - but most work on the same principle: the dog-owner shovels the mess into a bag or box. Among those already on sale are Whoopsie Kit, Poopa Scoopa and I Love My Dog Poop Scoop. Whoopsie Kit does a good job but is quite involved: you don a plastic glove, shunt the mess onto a wedge of cardboard and dump it in a box that you prepared earlier with a tiny bin- liner. The bag is thrown away, and the box kept for next time.

Poopa Scoopa is far simpler - a cardboard box reminiscent of a McDonald's french fries container. One end scoops and scrapes the mess inside and then folds over to become a lid. It picks up effectively, but your hands might come into contact with the faeces when closing the box. The winner for both simplicity and fastidiousness is the nifty I Love My Dog. This is a brown paper bag, with sturdy cardboard flaps at the sides. Inverted, the flaps act as spades, trapping the mess between them. Holding the flaps together by their handles, you flip the bag over, so that the contents drop to the bottom and the top of the bag locks firmly shut.

We were also sent a few prototypes of scoops of the future. Scoop-a-poop looks like a pot-plant bag, except that it has a plastic shovel built into its narrow end. You stick your arm into the bag, grasp the handles of the shovel, scoop the poop, and then bring the bag over to envelop the mess. The bags are about to go into production, and their makers hope to sell them through vending machines. Still on the drawing board is the Walkie Box, the creation of design consultant John Duschnitz. It's a pair of hinged cardboard boxes; in a single movement one box engulfs the mess and slots neatly into the other, and the hinge becomes a handle.

At first sight, Mutt Mitt looks like a chef's hat. Already in use in the United States, it is due to be launched here soon. The mitt is a polythene bag with another inside it, which is worn as a gauntlet. The excrement is grasped in the smaller bag and enclosed by turning the glove part inside out. It's clean but the squelch factor may deter the squeamish.

Having scooped the poop, the responsible dog-owner faces the question of what to do with it. More and more designated bins are appearing in parks and on housing estates. Earth Anchors supplies 'bins in their hundreds' to metropolitan authorities and parish councils. 'They are an integral part of dog hygiene schemes,' says the marketing manager, Philippa Bassett.

When the bins fill up, local authorities must empty them. In 70 councils this task is performed by Tigger Hygiene. Its 12 employees travel round the country installing bins, removing their contents and cleaning up around them.

Of course, these solutions depend on dog owners picking up the mess. The real problem is abandoned dog dirt, which is where Fido and Mutt come in. Fido - Faecal Intake Disposal Operation, by the way - is a sort of mini-moke, customised with cleaning equipment, which can be driven along the street and round parks. The driver uses an extended vacuum to disinfect and hoover up the mess. (Mutt is a poor relation, pulled by a tractor.) For the past nine months two Fidos have been combing central London. 'It's working extremely well,' says a spokesman for the City of Westminster. The vehicles have a certain novelty value and can help to spread the message to pick up: 'It gains local publicity and publicises all those other dog messes,' says Colin Edwards, of Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, in Cheshire.

Perhaps the most innovative solution of all is the 'faecal collecting walking stick'. It has yet to find a backer, but its inventors, retired engineers Peter Ransom and Noel Devos, are confident it would be a commercial success. The walking stick looks like an exhaust pipe with a handle. Press a button and claws emerge from the base, grabbing the mess into a bag which is sucked up the barrel. Dog and owner walk on and the contents can be expelled later. It wins hands down (or perhaps not) for zany ingenuity. Heath Robinson might be green with envy.