With the weather getting warmer and the Coronavirus safety guidelines asking the public to socialise outdoors, people in the UK are flocking to parks and beaches.
Think before you throw
This is all good and well but the amount of people enjoying Britain’s outdoor spaces hides a dark truth. Park authorities report “unprecedented” levels of littering.
While cigarette butts account for 30% to 40% of all coastal and urban litter found since the 1980’s, other common litter items include balloons, bones, food wrappers, gum, pens, hair ties, and string to name just a few.
During the summer months, calls to the RSPCA significantly spike due to wildlife getting tangled and stuck or even cut and seriously wounded by discarded litter. According to Ark Wildlife, cigarette butts are especially dangerous because they are both toxic and non-biodegradable. But wildlife isn’t the only one who suffers.
Our dogs usually come with us everywhere, especially when we’re enjoying being outdoors. But dogs are also scavengers by nature, and with a sense of smell approximately 20 times better than ours, you can bet that they’ll find anything remotely edible if it’s within their reach. With so many people leaving their rubbish behind, this is a recipe for disaster.
Small dogs can show clinical signs of poisoning after ingesting just one cigarette butt. Ingestion of several could be lethal. Glass bottles can cause paw pad cuts. Ingestion of plastic can cause serious intestinal blockages. Bags can lead to suffocation. The list is endless.
And if you think only non-biodegradable items are dangerous, then think again. Anything containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be lethal for dogs. Grapes, among a lengthy list of foods, are toxic to dogs as well. Sharp bones can cause irremediable damage to internal organs. Large food items such as corn on the cob can cause severe blockages.
Littering destroys lives
Here at Wamiz, it seems like we’re writing too often about pets who lose their lives because of improper disposal of potentially dangerous items. Here are just a few of the devastating stories which have been brought to our attention over the years:
Three years ago, Cocker Spaniel Gilly got her paws on a skewer which had been left unsupervised at a barbecue. It became lodged inside of her and even poked a hole through her side. She had to be taken into emergency surgery, which cost her owners over £3,000.
Two years ago, Pitbull Petey’s parents came home from work to find him lifeless with a bag of crisps on his face. The bag, which had not been properly stored away, had asphyxiated the dog when he attempted have a snack.
A year ago, a Pitbull named Gemini ingested a plastic bottle cap which had been thrown onto the ground. She became lethargic and started vomiting. Her owner paid £3,500 for her life-saving surgery.
11 months ago, Winston, a 3-year-old Lab/GSD mix ate a chewing gum that had been discarded on the street. Hours later, he was vomiting and lethargic. Two days later, he had to be put to sleep.
Less than a month ago, Springer Spaniel Bandit ingested corn on the cob which had been left on the sand after a beach barbecue. The core became lodged in his intestines and had to be surgically removed. But the blockage had already caused an infection so serious that it couldn’t be treated. Bandit had to be put to sleep.
A single-second decision to throw something on the ground rather than in the trash can end innocent pets’ lives and break the hearts of their families. It’s just not worth it.
So what can we do?
Pick. Up. Your. Trash. It’s not just ONE cigarette butt, it’s not just ONE piece of gum, and it’s not just ONE barbecue leftover. It could be the difference between life and death.
If there aren’t bins available where you’re going, bring a disposal bag with you. You can throw it out properly later.
Report issues to your council. The only way for beach and country towns to reduce their ecological impact is if they know about the issues they’re facing. If there aren’t enough bins available, let them know. If you witness people littering, let them know. On-the-spot fines for those caught littering can be up to £150.
Support charities that tackle litter by donating or volunteering. And as always, reuse, reduce, recycle.
For the dog owners out there, be ever vigilant, especially during the summer months when people are out and more reckless. Keep your dogs on a lead in heavily littered areas, and stop them if they try to eat something from the ground. Watch for any changes in behaviour and take them to the vet if you have any doubts.
Keep your fur babies safe, and enjoy your summer!