According to the Berlin Animal Protection Agency, the city is home to at least 107,000 pooches, which produce on average some 125 kilos (274 pounds) of waste each year.
This combined with what seems to be a wilful refusal by many Berlin dog owners to bag Fido’s faeces means that city sidewalks and parks are soiled with 13 million kilos (almost 30 million pounds) of canine crap annually. Dog owners in Germany must pay a “dog tax” each year, and many feel they shouldn’t have to clean up after their pets for this reason.
But instead of pointing fingers at lazy dog owners who allow their pooches to pepper sidewalks and parks with pungent piles, Sandra Kaliga and several of her neighbours decided they would try an alternative method.
“Only humour is effective,” Kaliga said, adding that she is also a dog owner.
She and her friends now regularly troll the streets of Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district to place tiny flags featuring funny quips to draw attention to the volume of dog poop on the ground.
“100 grammes, just €1.99,” one flag reads. Another says, “Art,” while yet another reads: “Well-formed!”
Shit Happens has 15 different slogans that they hope will not only alert innocent pedestrians to impending danger, but also remind dog owners to clean up after their pets.
So far reaction in the neighbourhood has been positive.
“Most people find it funny,” Shit Happens member Sabina Ruminski said. “But we also get some dim-witted commentary, which mostly comes from dog owners who feel like they’ve been caught.”
But some dog owners have clearly been affected by the initiative too, rushing to clean up their pet poo when they see the group headed their way, members said.
The group says they sympathise with Berlin dog owners, who are often forced to carry around plastic bags of poop for long distances due to a dearth of proper waste receptacles – a problem that could be solved by dog tax money, the group suggested.
In the meantime, Shit Happens is filling tiny flag orders for communities outside Berlin and is creating new “Danke” flags to hand pet owners they spot doing their part to keep the streets clean.