El Vendrell, a small town of 36,000 people in northeastern Spain, has set up a canine toilet along one of its main thoroughfares. The contraption mimics a human toilet in many ways; its stainless steel platform features a hole with a lid. Dog owners must flush the toilet, releasing jets of water that carry the excrement through underground pipes to the sewer system.
Next to it sits a doggie urinal – a grid with small holes over which dogs can squat. Between both sits a water fountain for dogs.
The toilet was donated to the town as part of a pilot project, said its creator, Enric Girona. Depending on how the toilet is received by the public, he'll begin marketing it to municipalities around the world.
A dog-lover whose father bred Irish Setters, Girona has spent much of the past decade photographing and documenting dogs with the goal of creating a contraption that could extend the luxury of a toilet to dogs.
"Over the years I've seen that if you train and raise dogs well, these animals can be just like humans."
Originally Girona came up with a few different models, modifying each as he learned more about the behaviour of dogs. He pointed to the urinal, which is cleaned by a flush of water, as an example.
"But it doesn't clean everything, because the animal needs a certain odour to be lured to the toilet," said the engineer, from Terrassa, a town near Barcelona.
Given that the toilet is designed to sit in a park, next to statues and fountains, consideration was also given to the design. "You can't have something that clashes with the setting," he said. "The design was done with the concept of being attractive."
The result is what he called a first in the world. "We looked around to see what was on the market, and saw that nothing quite like this existed."
The town of El Vendrell, where negligent pet owners face fines of up to €750, was the first to say yes to his marketing pitch, earning them an exclusive dog toilet built entirely by hand.
"To make just one is costly and complicated," Girona said. "But if we have orders of 10 or 25, the costs would definitely decrease dramatically."
Recent years have seen towns and cities across Spain crack down on owners who don't clean up after their pets. In Barcelona and Madrid fines can run as high as €1,500, while the town of Colmenar Viejo hired a private detective in April to catch negligent owners in the act.