Dogs have long been both man’s best friend, and his colleague, with sheepdogs, guide dogs and police dogs so common that no one bats and eyelid. Now, dogs have been found to be able to carry out a job on beaches that can reduce the risk of illness this summer.
The word “E. coli” is enough to create fear even in the least squeamish of us, and the one place you don’t want it following you is on holiday.
Beaches are known to have high levels of E. coli, the bacteria that can cause gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections and even meningitis in some cases, due simply to the large amount of seagull droppings.
E. coli grows and spreads in whatever ‘business’ is left behind by animals. The fact that seagulls congregate on beaches and that birds are notorious for dropping whatever they want wherever they want, be it on paths, windows and on your freshly waxed car, means that beaches are a perfect place for E. coli to spread.
Tests have found, on the shores of Lake Michigan in the US that Border Collies, often favoured as work dogs because of their intelligence and hard working nature, can be successfully used to reduce the amount of E. coli on beaches, simply by chasing seagulls off.
A lot of beaches are closed each year because of high levels of E. coli, but the bacteria levels were found to be much lower when the gulls had been kept away by the dogs. However, the bacterium is a hardy one and managed to grow later in the season if the gulls had been given free rein early on, showing that the timing of the dog’s work could be crucial.
This is just one more way in which dogs have proven to be a big help, and in the future, beach dogs (gull dogs) could become a normal part of any beach holiday.