Dog Lovers Asked to Clean Up

MTBelova pulling one of the "doggie bags" out of the new dispenser Monday.
In the first campaign of its kind, the federal government is encouraging dog owners to clean up the messes left by their dogs by setting up street dispensers with paper bags to collect the pets' feces.

Youth activists unveiled the first two street dispensers near Timiryazevskaya metro station in northern Moscow on Monday to a throng of reporters and several unimpressed Muscovites who happened to be walking their dogs.

The one and only dog owner who agreed to take a bag from a dispenser as journalists attended the event was Nadezhda Belova, a middle-age receptionist for a Moscow cemetery. Her two small dogs were not happy to be in the center of media attention, barking shrilly at the TV and newspaper reporters.

Another dog owner, who refused to give his name, said he did not like the idea of the free dispensers of dog bags. "These bags are awful. The organizers just want to make money," he said. "I'm sure they will start charging for the bags when the media attention fades away."

The dispensers were set up by youth activists under the aegis of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs for a campaign called "Don't Step In." The activists have also started collecting signatures to petition City Hall to equip Moscow streets and pars with similar devices aimed at improving "the culture of walking dogs in Russia."

Unlike in many European capitals, dog owners in Moscow care little to collect their pets' messes, offering a striking scene when snow melts in the spring and exposes dog feces that has accumulated over several months.

The Federal Agency for Youth Affairs offered no comment on who should be responsible for messes left by the thousands of stray dogs that roam the city's streets.