We’ve all seen it. We’ve all smelled it. We’ve all probably stepped in it. Besides being gross, pet waste also is a hazard in your community. It was deemed by the Environmental Protection Agency to be a nonpoint source pollutant. It’s classified in the same category as toxic chemicals from motor vehicles, pesticides, and more.
According to the EPA, “a single gram (of poop) contains an estimated 23 million bacteria,” and it is a source of viruses and parasites such as salmonella, roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms that can all sicken humans and other animals.
When animal feces are not promptly picked up, a rainstorm or water from sprinklers can contaminate runoff. Those pollutants seep into the ground and contaminate the water supply, or they can infect those who dig in the dirt, most often children. The runoff that is not absorbed will continue and run into storm drain systems, which will eventually flow into streams, lakes, and the ocean, harming wildlife, fish, and habitats.
Some people justify not scooping the poop by saying it will help to fertilize the yard, but experts have discovered quite the opposite. Unlike cows, dogs are carnivores, which makes their waste too acidic to effectively help your lawn or plants grow. The feces of carnivores take longer to fully decompose, sometimes up to a year. Dog waste attracts rodents and other unwanted animals, which can thereby accelerate the spread of diseases. The unsightliness of dog poop can cause issues with selling properties and keeping residents happy. Let’s look at some options for combatting pet waste and keeping your community clean and healthy.
Establish a policy and educate residents. Many associations struggle to find a way to enforce policies, especially when it comes to pet owners who have limited accountability. Having clear cut regulations and rules surrounding removal of pet waste and how the rules are enforced are important pieces of the puzzle. There are several ways to educate residents. You can discuss pet waste during an open board meeting, publish a statement in your newsletter, send out information via email, or post information to the community website. By bringing awareness to the issue, you provide residents an opportunity to address it before the association intervenes.
Send a courtesy notice or violation. If you know whose animals are responsible for the uncollected dog poop, the board or management can send them a formal letter. Some choose to implement DNA testing. Animals register and their DNA is stored so that samples found in uncollected waste can be matched and appropriate fines can be assessed to the owner’s account. This option can be costly, but it is accurate and effective.
Install waste stations and send reminders. An easy and effective way to encourage owners to pick up is by making it convenient and keeping the issue at the front of owners’ minds. Having pet waste stations located in high traffic areas will provide residents with no excuse. Something as simple as a sign or flyer can help remind residents and visitors alike that there are rules and regulations in place.
Hire a pet waste removal service. If a large part of your community has pets, hiring a professional cleaning service will ensure that someone is responsible for picking up and properly disposing of the uncollected pet waste on a regular basis. Alternatively, if you have on-site maintenance staff, ask that they monitor and service any high traffic areas or problem spots.
Offer pet-friendly amenities. Some communities find that it can be easier to keep things tidy when dog owners are directed to one general location, such as a dog park. Just make sure the area is properly outfitted with waste stations and plenty of poop-scooping bags. Often, the peer pressure from seeing other dog owners clean up is enough. Having amenities where dogs can play and burn some of their energy also helps reduce issues seen when dogs get bored, such as excessive barking and property damage.
With more than 70% of U.S households owning at least one pet, it’s no wonder pet waste is so often a hot topic in many associations. Managing pet waste issues as soon as they arise is crucial. Ensuring that proper waste management is ongoing will not only aid in reducing conflict over animals, but it also will improve property values and the overall health of residents.
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Adrienne Brewer is a manager with Aperion Management Group, AAMC, in Oregon.