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Complaints about dog faeces as a symbolic representation of incivility in London, UK: a qualitative study.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

J Derges, Rebecca Lynch, A Clow, M Petticrew, A Draper

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-425
Number of pages7
JournalCritical Public Health
Issue number4

King's Authors


During a 'Well London' study, residents were asked about their neighbourhood and its environment. Above all other complaints, 'dog poo' was mentioned as a key concern. Despite low rates of infection and disease among the human population resulting from contact with canine faecal matter, the concerns of the public continue to rate it as a serious public health issue. Most public health studies, therefore, seek to identify processes of transmission and disease pathology as a method of addressing the problem. This study approaches the issue through a contextualised analysis of residents' complaints, using anthropological theory to examine the symbolic representation of 'dog poo'. Analysis of the interviews shows that these specific complaints were located among less easily defined or articulated experiences of social and environmental neglect, where neighbours were estranged from one another and local authorities seen as negligent. This approach has important implications for public health, as it provides not only a strong indicator of the level of dissatisfaction within some of London's more disadvantaged neighbourhoods, but also identifies a need for policies that are grounded in cross-disciplinary research into the relationship between health, 'wellbeing' and experiences of marginalisation among urban populations.

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