I was walking through a park in the Vršovice district of Prague the other day and I happened to notice a makeshift sign taped to a tree trunk. Signs like that are quite a common sight in Prague as heartbroken dog and cat owners plead for help in finding their lost pets. This sign looked a little more official though and lacked that cute kitty picture, so I stepped off the paved path to take a closer look. The sign read: “On June 22, poison was laid down here against rats and mice.” And in smaller print: “Watch your little children and household pets!”
I looked down and searched the ground around me. Poison was laid down here… POISON?!? Where here? Around the tree? In what radius around the tree? In the whole park? There was no area specified on the sign or blocked off with tape. We’re supposed to keep an eye on little children and household pets. You mean, so they don’t eat any rat poison granules and die? This particular park is so popular with dog owners that it can almost be called a dog park. There is no leash law in place, so dogs have a free run. What about their paws and the tennis balls they fetch? What about little children’s little shoes and the balls they kick around? Will they all get contaminated with rat poison? Will my dog bring rat poison home on his little feet and spread it around my living room floor? How long is this rat poison that’s somewhere around here going to be a problem? For a few weeks? A few months? A year?
I was both amused at the Czechness of this casual approach to public safety and astonished that it is still allowed and tolerated in this country. I can picture the same situation in the USA: The whole park blocked off, red tape everywhere, large Keep Away! and Caution! Health Hazard! signs placed in several prominent locations around the area. Of course that’s only on the assumption that any U.S. city authorities would even contemplate the use of rat poison in a public park, which I doubt very much. Well, we Czechs are just a little more laid back I guess.