Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
The German capital is currently reeling from news of a newly identified source of illegal drugs in the canine food chain: junkie poop.
For the average dog, the term "cold turkey" describes a delicious snack, not a case of sudden drug withdrawal.
Except, perhaps, in Berlin. The German capital is currently reeling from news of a newly identified source of illegal drugs in the canine food chain: junkie poop. According to the Der Tagesspiegel newspaper, Berlin dogs are being rushed to vets in ever larger numbers after consuming drug-contaminated human feces they've come across in city parks.
This canine drug problem has its source in drug users' rejection of conventional toilet facilities in parks like the scraggly Görlitzer Park or the beautiful Hasenheide. These places have a shady reputation for drug dealing, and junkies have been doing more than just deals in the bushes. The poop contains drug residue that Berlin's more unrestrained dogs consume on their walks. The issue has come to light now because of a city-wide debate about drug dealing in the parks.
Judging by the symptoms Berlin's vets have reported, the city's park users have been ingesting quite a cocktail. Dogs have been found with heart palpitations, dehydration and blood poisoning linked to heroin or amphetamines, as well as less severe (possibly cannabis-related) symptoms such as cold sweats and severe cases of the munchies. Luckily, the dogs' problems have so far been treatable with a short-term sedative or an emetic.
Berlin isn't exactly steeling itself for a new wave of canine junkies, but the story shows another side to the city's drug problems. Some city parks are so well-known for dealing that local authorities have already earmarked them for anti-drug actions. The borough of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, for example, is attempting to push through plans to create a cannabis café next to dealing spot Görlitzer Park that would wrest control of the weed trade from the hands of street dealers. That would, of course, do little to flush away harder drugs or halt canine coprophagia, but it's a sign of public will for change.
Given Berlin's relatively low crime and violence rates, ordinary strollers still apparently feel safe enough to visit these druggy parks, at least during daylight. But dog owners are perhaps more likely to keep their pooches on a leash now, lest their poor pets start developing even worse habits that the ones they already have. As one student owner of a drug-afflicted pet told Der Tagesspiegel:
In Görlitzer Park there’s an unbelievable amount of stuff around a lot – leftovers, bones, trash. You really have to watch out.
Top image: Dogs look on as runners compete in the 40th Berlin marathon. (Tobias Schwarz/Reuters)