This week's announcement that dogs help to reduce gull congregations on recreational beaches has heated up the debate as to whether or not dogs should be allowed to go off leash at beaches.
On the pro side, when trained border collie beach patrols chase away gulls, they help to prevent Esherichia coli -- present in gull droppings -- from leaching into beach waters, according to a study presented at this week's annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.
The avian poop problem has resulted in swim advisories and beach closings, so dog patrols potentially mean more fun in the sun for people and their pets.
Biologist Elizabeth Alm of Central Michigan University, who co-authored the study, told Discovery News that border collies on patrol at Great Lakes region sites repelled gulls "while at the same time not detracting from the beauty and tranquility of the beaches."
She was quick to add, however, that "the dogs used in this study were not pets, but highly trained professional working dogs under the control of a handler. They were off leash only briefly and only while actively chasing gulls."