From energy incentives to public shaming, communities are getting creative.

Updated September 19, 2022 In 2010, the problem of dog excrement was one of America’s biggest gripes, according to a survey by Consumer Reports. But despite posted signs, HOA regulations and looks of disapproval from passersby, some dog owners just don’t clean up after their pets. This is not only unpleasant and unsanitary for people, dog poop is also a problem for the environment. To combat this messy problem, creative minds across the globe are coming up with innovative ways to motivate people to pick up the poo. Here’s a look at five unique ways cities and parks are raising awareness and persuading pet owners to clean up after their pooches.

Powered by poo

From Massachusetts to the UK, dog waste is being converted into fuel to power everything from streetlights to homes. At Pacific Street Dog Park in Cambridge, Mass., a methane digester known as The Park Spark project transforms dog droppings into methane, which powers a lamppost. The park provides biodegradable bags to dog walkers, and encourages people to drop waste into the digester’s feeding tube. Across the pond in Chester, England, renewable energy company Streetklean is using a similar anaerobic digestion system to convert dog poo into energy that heats and powers residences.

DNA testing

It’s not uncommon for cities or apartment complexes to fine people who leave dog waste behind, but some properties take clean-up duty more seriously than others. For example, Twin Ponds apartments in Nashua, N.H., is one of many properties that requires tenants with dogs to use a «PooPrints» pet DNA sampling kit when they move in. If feces is found on the grounds, property managers simply send the sample to BioPet Vet Labs, learn the dog’s identity and fine the resident.

Return to sender

The small town of Brune, Spain, has reported a 70% decrease in dog waste since its February campaign in which it returned dog poo to the rightful owner. For a one-week period, volunteers approached dog owners who left their pet’s droppings behind and struck up a conversation with the goal of learning the dog’s name. «With the name of the dog and the breed it was possible to identify the owner from the registered pet database held in the town hall,» a spokesman from the council told the Telegraph. When the guilty dog owner’s address was confirmed, the poop was placed in a box labeled “Lost Property” and delivered via courier to the person’s home.

Named and shamed

Last year the Blackburn City Council in England announced a program to publicly post the names and photos of people who don’t clean up after pets. The city called on the public’s help, asking residents to be the eyes of ears of the pilot program by snapping culprits’ photos and reporting them to the council.

Waste for WiFi

Ten Mexico City parks are encouraging dog owners to scoop that poop in return for free WiFi. When people deposit bags of dog droppings into a special bin, it calculates the weight, and Internet portal Terra gives everyone in the park free minutes of WiFi. The greater the weight, the more time people have to surf the Web.

Why Pets Matter to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our dogs, the better we can support and protect their wellbeing. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores, and will also consider supporting local animal shelters. Eww, did you just step in what you think you stepped in? One of the great things about being a landlord is enabling people to keep their pets when they rent. But, problems do arise when your tenants allow their pets to leave their calling cards around the property. Not only is it unsightly and smelly, but it can spread disease if not cleaned up, not to mention ruin the looks of your property’s lawn and may actually violate some municipal ordinances. So, how do you prevent doggie land mines on your property? Here are some ideas that will hopefully eliminate the poop problem.

Pet Pickup Stations

Make it easy for your tenants to be good dog owners. Have waste cans and doggie poop bags available in strategic places where pet owners take their dogs for a walk. Post signs explaining that all pet owners need to clean up after their dogs or face a possible fine. Your tenants are more likely to pick up after their pets if you make it easy for them to do so. They’ll appreciate that you’ll help keep the area clean if they do their part.

Dog Park

If you have some extra space, have a fenced in area where owners can let their dogs off leash. Be sure to have a sign with rules on it and a pet pickup station so that dog owners can clean up after their pet. Obviously the rules still have to apply in the dog park as it does on other parts of your property when it comes to picking up poop, but the pet owners will likely be encouraged to keep the area cleaned up. After all, nobody wants to play in the toilet. When setting up a dog park on your premise, be sure that it is only accessible by residents and be sure that all the tenants sign waivers regarding their pets. When in doubt, talk to a lawyer to get the exact wording so that you’re protected should anything occur. While this may not stop inconsiderate pet owners from leaving presents in there, at least the poop is out of the way of normal foot traffic. What’s more, it’s likely that considerate pet owners will let you know whose dog is responsible for leaving those nasty packages.

Lay down the Law

Have each of your tenants who own dogs sign a contract stipulating that they are responsible for cleaning up any and all poop that their dog produces on the property. Failure to pick up after their dog should result in a fine, even after the first time. This should make pet owners more likely to clean up after their pets and keep the grounds looking good. Of course, you have to be able to catch them in the act. This is why if you have a large apartment complex, you may need to have your staff fully briefed on keeping an eye out for pet owners who refuse to pick up after their pets. Once the pet owner is fined, it’s likely that they’ll pick up after their pet in the future. If they refuse to clean up after their dog, the next step would be an increasing fine for each violation.

PooPrintsAdvantage_Steve PooPrints — Use Technology to Track the Culprits

Because you can’t be around all the time, you may want to consider the newest method of fighting unwanted doggie doo. PooPrints is a new service that allows you to track a dog’s poop through its DNA signature. Some apartments are requiring tenants to pay for their own dogs’ DNA testing. Then, when a dog leaves his calling card and his owner fails to pick up after him, you can send in a sample for testing. Obviously, this requires no extra staff to keep watch, and it pretty much proves who the culprit is. There’s little chance of blaming the wrong pet owner and dog, and you don’t have to punish the good pet owners for one bad apple. While dog poop is a fact of life, it doesn’t mean that you have to step in it. By offering incentives such as pet pickup stations, trash cans, and a dog park, you’re likely to nip this one in the bud.

  • Best Practices
  • Stewardship Tips
  • Trails

Trail Dog Walking Two things became clear over the last year: many people took to local trails to get outside, and many got a new ‘pandemic puppy’. This spring, trail managers have been struggling with a result of these pandemic changes: dog waste left along trails and parking areas. “We’ve received a number of reports from concerned hikers this year — especially in early spring, when melting snow revealed a winter’s worth of dog waste,” says Brett Thelen, Science Director of the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, NH. “We’re looking for new ways to communicate with trail users about why it’s vital they pack out their dog’s waste.” Thankfully (or not?) they’re not alone in needing new ways to encourage people to scoop up after their dogs. TrailFinder recently published Dog Waste Stewardship, outlining the science and benefits of picking up dog waste everywhere: not only in the city, but in your neighborhood, yard, favorite natural area or along the trail. Land managers are trying different ways to convince dog owners to carry-in, carry-out, but what really works? We took a look at the research to find some suggestions:

  • The availability of trash bins is likely to increase dog waste collection on streets and parks, but is less effective on trails (see Typhina and Yan, 2014).
  • The availability of bags is an oft-cited barrier to cleaning up pet waste (what dog owner has not forgotten a bag on occasion?). Making bags available at trailheads – even without bins – will likely improve waste cleanup.
  • The same authors noted that messages focused on the fact that no one wants to step in dog waste did affect dog owner behavior on rural trails. Emphasizing courtesy to neighbors was also an effective message for trail users.
  • A study of park use in Kirkland WA showed that outreach and education can work. Un-scooped dog poop decreased by 80% as a result of a campaign to showcase the cumulative effect of dog waste. Over 3 weeks, park staff put up yellow flags on every un-scooped poop found in three parks, accompanied by signage and new pet waste removal stations (bins and bags).

Kirkland WA Dog Waste Campaign with Flags Dog waste study and campaign from Kirkland WA showing flags used to mark un-scooped dog waste.

  • The Gallatin Valley Land Trust developed a creative set of signs to encourage scooping of dog waste around Bozeman, MT. Although land managers continue to report struggles with un-scooped poop, the signs have attracted interest from other land managers and are available to order by the designers.

Gallatin Valley Land Trust Dog Waste Campaign Signs

  • But how to get the stinky bag home? One blog post we read had some creative ideas (including a tailgate dumpster to install on your car), but the tried-and-true method is to cinch the bag under your windshield wiper and throw it away when you get home. Most wipers have just the right amount of tension.

Dog waste bag under windshield wiper blade Dog owners may say that carrying waste home is unpleasant, but solutions exist.

  • Several studies have shown that accountability is an important component to dog clean up behavior (see Alachua County Dog Waste Campaign). In recent years, many dog waste campaigns have included a pledge form — either digital, paper, or on social media — asking people to commit to cleaning up after their pet, every time. See this pledge form from Maryland. According to the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, «A pledge is a gentle but effective way to establish a commitment from the audience that can serve as a motivator and lead to lasting changes in behavior.»

If you try out any of these tips, or find other creative cures for this pandemic of dog waste, let us know about it: [email protected] or message us on social media @nature_groupie. pick up dog poop
Responsible owners pick up dog poop both at home and when they are out and about. Pick up dog poop. If you have a dog, it’s just that simple. Be responsible and clean up after your dog. The average dog produces roughly 274 pounds of poop a year. With 78 million dogs in the U.S., that means our beloved pooches produce approximately 21 billion pounds of dog poop per year. That’s a lot of waste and we all need to do our part to clean it up.

Leave no dog poop behind

Be a good neighbor. When you take your dog for a walk, clean up whether he poops in a yard nearby, at a park or along a hiking path, clean it up. Take a poop bag or two along — every coat and jacket I own has at least one bag in the pocket — or you can use a product like The Fifth Paw to make it easier to keep your hands clean and control the leash while walking your dog. The Fifth Paw attaches to your leash and can easily hold three or four bags of waste. Or you can use a tool like the PooBagger, a handy tool that makes picking up after your dog easy and painless. Unfortunately, far too many people just don’t pick up after their dogs. Or even worse — pick up the dog poop, but then leave the bag.

Lazy? Careless?

In Arvada, a Denver suburb, parks officials planted more than 600 orange flags next to piles of dog poop left by careless owners in a field along a busy street. If those dog owners are caught, they run the risk of a $999 fine and plenty of public scorn. Colorado park rangers encourage dog owners to clean up after their pets. For example, a sign at Mount Falcon park near Denver encourages hikers “Let’s doo it.” “I have been on patrol where I’ve encountered up to 19 or 20 discarded bags of dog waste next to the trail,” Mary Ann Bonnell, a park ranger, told the NBC station. People are quick to provide excuses for why they fail to pick up the poo or leave bags behind. But none of those excuses are good enough and since there is no poop fairy, someone else — most likely a parks worker — ultimately has to pick it up. “You’re out of excuses at this point — we’d just really like people to do the right thing,” Bonnell said. I’m not shy about shaming dog owners if I see them try to leave poop behind. When I do, I offer one of my bags. I get a few dirty looks, but it usually works — at least that time.

Be nice in shared living spaces

If you live in an apartment or condo, you likely agreed to pick up after your pooch when you signed your lease or bought your unit. Increasingly, apartment management is going high tech to hold people accountable if they fail to pick up after their pets. For example, an apartment complex in Longmont, Colorado, requires residents to bring their dogs in for initial DNA testing, which is done with a cheek swab. The complex pays a company called PooPrints for that testing and if residents fail to pick up, a sample is sent to the lab. PooPrints then compares the DNA from the sample against the DNA in its database. When there’s a match, the lab notifies the apartment complex, which then fines the dog owner.

Protect your castle from dog poop

If you don’t regularly pick up dog poop in your yard, you risk attracting flies and pests, creating unpleasant odors and damaging your yard. Worse, you could encourage your dog to eat feces. But what should you do with all that poop? Some experts suggest composting it as a way to get rid of it. But be warned, although dog waste compost can be used as a soil additive for planting trees, shrubs or flowers, you should not use it for a garden because it poses health hazards for any fruits or vegetables people eat. But others say composting dog waste is hazardous because the process fails to kill dangerous pathogens and parasites that can infect people and animals. Instead, send the dog waste to the landfill where the staff is trained to handle dangerous substances. Just be sure to put the poop in a biodegradable bag first. And if you really don’t want to have to do the clean up yourself, book regular pickups through a poop scooping service that will come to your home weekly bi-weekly or monthly. Bottom line: When you bring a dog into your home you implicitly make several promises. You agree to take care of your dog and like it or not, you agree to pick up dog poop and dispose of it properly. Sara B. Hansen Sara B. Hansen has spent 20-plus years as a professional editor and writer. She’s also the author of The Complete Guide to Cocker Spaniels. She decided to create her dream job by launching DogsBestLife.com in 2011. Sara grew up with family dogs, and since she bought her first house, she’s had a furry companion or two to help make it a home. She shares her heart and home with Nutmeg, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Her previous dogs: Sydney (September 2008-April 2020), Finley (November 1993-January 2008), and Browning (May 1993-November 2007). You can reach Sara @ [email protected]. The presence or absence of suitable receptacles for bags is not the whole picture. (Photo: MarkScottAustinTX/Flickr) (Photo: MarkScottAustinTX/Flickr) What’s the scoop on picking up poop? New research from a team led by Christopher Lowe investigates. Lowe’s study consisted of an environmental survey of several popular dog walking locations, and an online survey that was completed by 933 participants from across the United Kingdom (83 percent were women). Eight footpaths in Lancashire, in the north of England, were visited in March/April 2010 to check for dog waste. This included a mix of urban and rural locations, and covered the path as well as about three meters on either side. A tow path along the canal had 40 dog poos in the space of 25 meters; at a nature reserve, a path by a railway embankment had a wall along it with a pile of bagged dog feces on the other side. On a footpath at a reservoir, the researchers found 269 bags of dog waste in 1,000 meters. The presence or absence of suitable receptacles for bags is not the whole picture, as one path with no trash cans or dog waste bins had very low levels of feces. In order to understand more about this, the researchers designed a questionnaire.

«The path audits suggested that visibility was a key factor in the behaviour of dog walkers with respect to dog waste and that some owners may only clean up after their dogs when obliged to (e.g. in the presence of others).»

Now you are probably thinking that people might not be honest in their statements about how often they pick up after their dog, and you have a point. This is an issue for any questionnaire research because people want to present themselves in a good light. The researchers tried to get around this by advertising it as a survey about dog walking, rather than poop scooping, so as to get a more balanced set of participants. And the results are still interesting, so read on. First of all, the not-surprising result is that 98 percent of dog owners agreed that owners should pick up after their dog if it poos on the pavement, and 97 percent agreed with this for parks and playing fields. However, they did not necessarily think they should always have to pick up after their dog. Only 56 percent agreed that, regardless of the location, people should pick up. In particular, when it came to countryside or to farmland with livestock, a significant minority thought that dog owners should not have to clean up their dog’s waste (34 percent for open countryside, 45 percent for farmland). People thought the most important reason for picking up after dogs was that it was “the right thing to do.” Reducing the spread of disease and parasites were the next most important reasons. The proportion of people who said they pick up after their dog in this survey is higher than the 63 percent found in observational research by Carri Westgarth et al. (2010). However, even if people have been overly optimistic about their habits, many of them still indicated that it depends on the context, and that there are some places where they don’t. A small number of participants admitted to sometimes picking up the poo, but then discarding the bag by leaving it somewhere such as the side of a path. This can be a significant problem because it is unsightly and even biodegradable bags take time to decompose; it can cause additional difficulties for landscape workers, such as if a bag bursts while trimming; and it preserves the feces for longer. «The path audits suggested that visibility was a key factor in the behaviour of dog walkers with respect to dog waste and that some owners may only clean up after their dogs when obliged to (e.g. in the presence of others),» the researchers write. «It was considered that given the opportunity these dog walkers would seek to discard the bagged dog waste as quickly as possible and respondents considered that this was also an important factor influencing this behaviour.» It seems that some dog owners are motivated by being seen to do the right thing, rather than actually doing it. This study shows that a number of factors influence whether or not dog owners clean up dog waste, including the location, environment, visibility, location of trash cans, perceptions of the area, as well as social and personal factors. Future research on the social psychological elements would be especially useful for designing campaigns to change behavior.


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