Dogs Eat Poop Everywhere. In San Francisco, Some Claim It’s for Meth

A minor social media panic was sparked by a Twitter thread about the disgusting habit of coprophagia — but it was ultimately about something else entirely

Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows the following uncomfortable fact about them: they eat poop —or, at least, they try to. Whether it is their own or that of another animal, coprophagia (the scientific term for shit-eating) is fairly common among canines, though depending on whom you ask or what you Google their reasons for doing so range widely from “it’s a manifestation of their anxiety” to “they think it tastes good.” Couldn’t be me!

Don’t Let This Flop is released Wednesdays on all audio streaming platforms, including Apple PodcastsSpotifyAmazon MusicStitcher and more.

One person who was apparently unaware of this very disgusting but fairly common habit was Michelle Tandler, a Twitter user with more than 60,000 followers. Tandler inadvertently managed to stoke a minor social media trend last week when she tweeted about an epidemic of dogs in San Francisco becoming addicted to meth in poop. 

“Last night at a party I met a woman who left San Francisco after her dog walker told her the dogs were getting addicted to meth-laced feces,” Tandler’s thread began. “Apparently they were running around the parks looking for it and then getting high.” She then documented her friends’ other reasons for leaving San Francisco, which were largely related to their own experiences with urban crime, but for obvious reasons these stories got buried under the lede of dogs becoming addicted to literal shit. (Tandler declined to comment for this story.)

Tandler’s thread went viral for two reasons: It was widely derided by many doctors on social media, some of whom pointed out the story was highly improbable. “Amphetamines like meth (methamphetamine) are metabolized (into different breakdown products) and then excreted in the urine,” not fecal matter, says Ryan Marino, MD, a medical toxicologist, addiction specialist, and assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine “People who use meth do not just defecate usable meth.” He classified the thread as reflective of “biases on how [some] view certain substance use and users.” Others pointed out that the story was similar to similar news items about cops overdosing from touching fentanyl, which have largely been debunked. (For what it’s worth, there have been news stories about dogs in Berlin overdosing on the feces of substance abusers in public parks, which Tandler linked to in the replies to back her point up.)

There was, perhaps, another reason why Tandler’s thread went viral, which had nothing to do at all with dogs gravitating to each other’s fecal matter like pop-star stans gravitating toward the Twitter mentions of a music journalist. The thrust of the thread centered on why Tandler and other people were leaving San Francisco, with the implication that it was due to rising crime rates in the city — a narrative that has been applied to many cities across America, particularly following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The narrative that cities have become a bastion of debauchery and criminal activity — like Gotham, except with more canine shit-eating — has been circulating in the right-wing media sphere for some time, with particular focus on New York City and San Francisco. There is a kernel of truth to these claims, as is the case with virtually all moral panics: in New York specifically, the violent crime rate has gone up slightly since the pandemic began, although relative to the historical crime rate it’s actually still pretty freaking low. (For comparison, it’s about on par with what it was in 2009, and five times less than NYC in the 1980s and early 1990s).

San Francisco is seeing a similar trend: there has been a slight rise in the homicide rate post-pandemic since 2019, according to an L.A. Times report, but it’s still one of the lowest rates on record. Rates of non-violent crimes like motor vehicle thefts and burglary in the city did indeed go up quite a bit in 2020 and 2021, but it also seems apparent that perception is playing a large role in fueling the coverage of rising crime in San Francisco: in one Bay Area poll, for instance, approximately 65 percent of people said they were afraid to go to the downtown area because of all of the rampant crime.

When discussing crime rates in general, it’s also worth considering the factors that may be driving increases, such as, say, skyrocketing rents, increasing populations of unhoused people, and jaw-dropping socioeconomic inequality, all of which are enormous problems in San Francisco. Yet for some, it’s simply easier to talk about a anecdotal dog methhead poop epidemic than to confront such deeply ingrained societal issues.

This week on Don’t Let This Flop, an internet news and culture podcast by Rolling Stone, cohosts Brittany Spanos and Ej Dickson discuss the dog meth poop thread as well as Addison Rae’s domestic drama, the toxicity of professional misogynist Andrew Tate, and Jenette McCurdy’s I’m Glad My Mom Died.

Don’t Let This Flop is released Wednesdays on all audio streaming platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Stitcher and more.

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