17 April 2024

First we had the parking wars, now we have the dog poo wars

| Zoya Patel
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sign on lawn about not letting yourt dog poop

Do we need to go all big brother when it comes to pooping pooches? Photo: File.

Maybe humans will never be able to live in close proximity to others without things turning sour.

If my experience of living in a townhouse complex is anything to go by, there will always be something that the neighbours are griping about.

It’s true that at least once a week, I think longingly of being able to one day afford a freestanding house with at least a metre of space on either side from the next dwelling. (It should be noted that on my street, the newly built homes on individual blocks have barely 10 cm of space between one house ending and the next starting.)

Usually, it’s just minor annoyances that have me dreaming of getting out – people parking in the shared driveways, hearing loud conversations outside our courtyard and yearning for more privacy, or having to constantly move my car out of our too-small garage before I can open the door wide enough to put the baby in his car seat.

But I must admit, there’s also a bit of a surveillance culture building in my complex. I wonder if this is just the inevitable reality of living with a hundred or so other people you never chose to reside with.

note left on car

The note left on a car in Zoya Patel’s townhouse complex … that’s not very neighbourly. Photo: Supplied.

First, narky notes were left on car windows, calling people out for parking in visitor spaces (see above). This felt unnecessary, and the tone of the notes was very pompous for what is really a minor problem (and more an issue with the parking requirements of developments this size than individuals trying to find somewhere to put their car each night).

Recently, a neighbour posted a video of a dog poo on one of the shared lawns to social media, with an ominous message saying that cameras were being installed and the offending dog owner would be outed in due course. Cameras. For dog poo. On a shared patch of lawn. Is it just me, or is that kind of miserable?

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Obviously, I think dog poo should be picked up. It’s rude and also gross to not pick up after your dog, especially in shared spaces.

The considerate thing to do is to collect the poo, and if your dog has pooed within the complex, and you don’t have a poo bag, you can still go home, get one, and come back to clean up after yourself. But really, you should have a poo bag on you!

But cameras? Threatening messages? Why not just a simple post saying, ‘noticed some dog poo that hasn’t been picked up? This is a reminder to please clean up after your dogs’? Why go all Big Brother about it?

The culture of housing complexes like mine says something about the nature of our neighbourhoods as they become denser and housing becomes less affordable and more constrained.

Based on the demographic of my neighbours, it seems like there are more than a few reluctant townhouse dwellers here – people who have big families, loads of outdoorsy gear, big dogs, and who generally seem like they’d enjoy more space, independence and distance from their neighbours than what they have currently.

We’re forced to live together (and should be grateful that we have secure housing at all!), but clearly, that doesn’t mean we have to be nice to each other.

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Ultimately, some of the frustration that I see my neighbours exhibiting is down to feeling like they don’t have control over their surroundings. Most of us probably grew up in the suburbs with houses on decent-sized blocks, where our folks could create an outdoor and indoor environment that was completely bespoke to their desires. Now we find ourselves in cookie-cutter homes, commanded by a body corporate and forced to share our outdoor spaces with hundreds of others. It’s not ideal, and that pent-up frustration inevitably finds its outlet, in this case, via poo surveillance.

There will always be the poo-leavers and the poo-police in any communal living situation, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t depress me. The thought of that neighbour gleefully trawling through hours of CCTV footage to find the offending mutt is sad. In any case, I’ll make sure to smile for the cameras when picking up my dog’s poo in the future – it might be the closest to a pleasant neighbourly interaction I’ll get at this rate.

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I have a very vivid ‘dog poo moment’ from my younger years and there is nothing worse than being reminded of it. Playing football on the front lawn with my younger siblings, kicking the football around and landing on it!

Anyone who has ever trod in, landed on or had an intimate encounter with a dog turd would no doubt have strong feelings at being reminded, and antipathy towards those responsible. The smell alone gets into the skin and no amount of cleaning can remove it taking days to eradicate. By the time it was removed the smell was etched into my brain and nothing could remove it.

Any reminder brings back that dog turd moment and that lingering terrible smell!

GrumpyGrandpa9:20 pm 18 Apr 24

We have been considering downsizing to an apartment or townhouses and these sort of stories are just another reminder about the issues involved in higher density living.

Recently, we were in Melbourne and staying in a relative’s 3 bedroom (rental) townhouse. The area was nice and the neighbours friendly, however, it was apparent that parking was an issue.
There were sone 30-40 townhouses and they all had a single garage. Each townhouse had a car parked on the driveway.
Outside our townhouse, there was a car parked overnight on the road, in front of our garage bin and that of our neighbours. Does that car live there on bin night?
The visitor carparks were also full; I assume being used by residents.

We may or may not proceed with the purchase of an apartment or townhouse, but if we do, there will be some prerequisite; 3 bedrooms and accommodation for 2 cars, for starters. This might seem selfish, given we only have one car, but with so many developments only offering 1 carport, without access to a 2nd, it may not be possible for our visitors or relatives to come and see us. Of course, unless our carparks are dedicated “garages”, we might still find someone squatting in our extra park.

There is something to be said about a free-standing house with a double lock-up garage.

A symptom of overcrowding people. GreensLabor infill policy will only make it worse. Infill building blocks and parks. Build hirise with insufficient car spaces. All to increase profits of property developers. Time for a regime change and not go greed greens either. Wake up Canberra our city is being ruined like Sydney it can be different.

HiddenDragon8:18 pm 18 Apr 24

Aside from the relentless drive to gouge as much government revenue and as much private profit as possible from housing development, ACT government policies seem to be far more concerned with protecting the undisturbed domestic bliss of supposedly endangered insects and other micro-fauna on land which could be utilised for less dense housing than with enabling the domestic bliss of tax-paying, voting humans.

That said, the petty battles and annoyances of suburban life are nothing new, and not restricted to dense modern dwelling forms. This wonderful collection from the 1930s includes the case of Cowfat v. Wheedle which arose from the “snail wars”, a nocturnal rain of snails and slugs in the West Munsey villas – i.e. neighbours furtively throwing gastropods over the fence to protect their prized hollyhocks from the slithering marauders.

There were no security cameras in those days but, as the learned judge noted, there were “watchers at windows” observing the nocturnal activities –


The judge found snails and slugs to be animals ferae naturae (i.e. not domesticated), so it was quite OK to chuck them over the fence (a legal precedent which is probably not of much use in resolving the canine excrement wars).

I agree. Apartment living not good.

For one, it’s on the spectrum of no private property, and no private property means a loss of one’s genuine individuality – without wanting to sound too individualistic.

1. Society becomes more commerce oriented and starts living in cities. Such living is comfort driven and indulgent, and fosters self-centredness or hyper individualism.

2. More hyper individualism means more people thinking unclearly, and more people thinking unclearly means more people losing their individual dignity – losing it to the collective blob that ironically came out of hyper individualism.

This represents a loss of private property.

3. The apartment makes its first appearance in this setting. And the apartment, as I said, is also a clear step towards having no private property – A symbol, if you will, of our loss of genuine individuality.

4. The end result is the socialist society – the undifferentiated collective which has no individuality or private property, not even a crappy little apartment to say it owns.

While many agrarian people throughout history may not have had private property as we know it, they at least had their own family dwellings, separate from those of others, with the added bonus of not being spoiled by the commercial and city dwelling society, which is crucial to retaining one’s genuine individuality (and the genuine community that such individuals enjoy, as opposed to the walking-dead one of the capitalist/hyper individualist/collectivist/socialist)

And because the apartment represents a loss of genuine individuality and private property, it’s inevitable that privacy should also go, hence the security cameras going up for everything, including dog poo.

This is the trajectory our capitalist-cum-hyper individualist-cum-collectivist-cum socialist society is on, without a coherent reason for why losing ourselves and our possessions is best – possessions not to be confused with capitalist sympathies.

We have a new person just bought into our development. She hated the gardener from when they were both at another development. He quit and when I asked he said he doesn’t put up with people like her and if she goes he’ll come back. The end result was an extra $120 per month for a new gardener who provides half the service coming fortnightly instead of weekly. Our original gardener been here 10 years and every one happy with his service and response to any issues. Place now looks like crap most the time because of one new resident. That’s the issue with strata developments, attracts those sort of people.

I am fortunate to have the means to be living in my own free standing home and whilst I agree that things could be handled more sensitively that what is described by your article I do think that we as humans need to be more aware and considerate of our fellow beings. The old saying “do as to others as you would have them do to you” would save a lot of angst.

Yes sounds pretty bad, that people are living on top of one another but can’t afford more space. High density residential living is a solution to high population growth which outstrips supply and feasible urban land/infrastructure. But we get high population growth because it suits the top end of town. High density is a mechanism to deal with the problems that happen to ensure that a tiny minority of wealthy people can expand their wealth through immigration-driven growth. Read Thomas Piketty to help understand this.

While the inhabitants of high density housing struggle and discipline each other the real issues get missed. Instead focus should be on understanding the causes of poorly designed medium-high density. A good place to start such a critical analysis could be “what is a house/townhouse/apartment?” – A place to live or an investment instrument to make money?

Agree that collecting your dog’s poo is required. But I would go further than the author and say that if your dog has pooed ANYWHERE (not just within shared areas within a complex or your home), and you don’t have a poo bag, then people should go home, get one, and come back to clean up after yourself.

I walk my dog a few times a day pretty much every day. There have been times, where I have run out of poo bags, but it aint that hard to either beg a bag off another dog walker or simply return home and then come back to the spot.

Alas, just like many areas of society, not all people are considerate of others. Increased residential density tends to multiply the impact of the less considerate onto more people, and perhaps make it more noticeable and possibly less tolerant.

Agree with Zoya that these issues can be dealt with in a much more positive way.

Whilst people do get annoyed when they’re disadvantaged by others’ inconsiderate behaviour, if one assumes good intent and that people don’t necessarily realise the impact on others, it can often be managed. Most people don’t intentionally annoy others. They often don’t realise that when visitor carparks are filled up, there may be nowhere for tradies, delivery people etc to park, meaning things don’t get done in a timely way.

Treating your complex like a community or village and going out of your way to be cheerful and helpful can change the culture, as others adopt the same attitude.

Being nice, cheerful and positive probably fades after a while if the inconsiderate behaviour does not change and improve. But I have no knowledge of these specific circumstances other than reading Zoya’s articles.

However, the overflow of carparking into communal areas (such as visitor parks, nature strips) and onto surrounding streets is a well known, commonly observed downside to higher density residential areas.

Similarly, tiny garages and lack of storage space are also often associated with increased residential density. Leading to people parking cars outside, either because the garages are too small to be practical or simply full of other items that need to be stored.

Just a reminder that YIMBY groups, developers and commentators are often seeking less car parking, smaller sized car parks and garages and more higher density living.

Refusal of street trees, which is a growing problem in the ACT, is also more likely if residents are using the verge and nature strip for parking.

I think it’s much more ecologically sustainable to leave dog poo on grass or dirt & let it decompose naturally.

but not so nice when you don’t expect it or see it, so walk in it with bare feet!

Possibly, but I doubt that you will win many friends in the community. Most poo bags are biodegradable.

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