TAIPEI A city in central Taiwan is offering shopping vouchers to volunteer dog waste collectors in a bid to clean up a perennial problem caused by the large number of stray animals island-wide.
City officials in Taichung, which has a population of one million, said on Wednesday the environmental protection bureau would give vouchers worth 100 Taiwan dollars ($3) for every kilo of dog poo collected. In areas of the city especially affected, the reward will be for every half-kilo.
"By means of offering rewards, the bureau hopes to goad the public into spontaneous clean-up efforts that protect the environment," the city council said on its website.
The 130,000 Taiwan dollar reward program should also raise public awareness of the main cause of the problem -- people who no longer want their pet dogs and who release them onto the streets, said Wang Wen-ge, a project manager with the bureau.
The initiative will start next week and vouchers can be redeemed from a local chain store.
Stray dogs may be a common sight in poor, less developed countries, but affluent Taiwan's cities are also full of them, with official figures showing there are about 180,000 living on the island of 23 million people.
The problem began in the 1980s, when Taiwan saw a boom in pet dogs following economic success, but now residents complain about the canine menace and the government has been fighting the issue for years.
The number of strays has also risen further in the current economic downturn as more pet owners dump animals they can no longer afford to keep.
(Reporting by Ralph Jennings, editing by Miral Fahmy)