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Tag: dog owners

Fecal responsibility: Boulder looks at DNA testing to track down poop scofflaws

poopquestionBoulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs, and create a registry so that, through DNA analysis, poop left on city trails could be traced to dog owners.

She’s not suggesting every dog in Boulder be tested (yet) — just the estimated 35,000 with so-called “green tags” that allow them to romp off-leash on some of the city’s trails and greenspaces.

Young has asked that the issue be discussed at tonight’s City Council meeting, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. (Yes, it happens to be an April Fools Day meeting, but nobody’s joking here.)

I would hope Boulder looks not just at whether it can be done (it can), but at whether it should be — that city leaders consider, in addition to the price tag of such a venture, the ethics and implications and utter goofiness of it.

There’s a lot of dog-related technology I don’t like (click the banner at the top of this page for one example) and poop-detection technology is near the top of the list.

Not just because of its Orwellian overtones, not just because it’s heavy-handed, dictatorial, silly, creepy, intrusive and expensive.  It’s also because technology, unleashed, has a habit of oozing beyond the boundaries of its originally intended purpose — DNA-testing of dog poop being just such a case — and spreading into ever scarier realms.

The day could still come when your tossed cigarette butt, un-recycled soda can or expectorated phlegm could be traced back to you, which, come to think of it, might be a better use of DNA technology than that being offered by the dog poop sleuths.

Declaring war on poop, and bringing out technology’s big guns, is overkill. Especially when the real solution can be achieved by simply bending over and picking up what your dog leaves behind.

In case you haven’t been following our posts on this issue, here’s how it works:

Deciding unscooped dog poop is simply intolerable, homeowners associations, apartment complexes or government entities sign up with a company called PooPrints, which sends them the supplies needed for residents to take swabs from the cheeks of their dogs. Those are sent to Tennessee, and a doggie DNA registry is created.

After that, any pile of poop that is found can be gathered, packaged and sent to a lab in Tennessee, where it can be unpackaged and tested and, by comparing DNA markers, matched to an individual dog, assuming that dog’s DNA is in the registry.

The company lets management know who the poopetrator was, and the owner is fined $100 or so — or, if a repeat offender, perhaps told they and/or their dog should move somewhere else. Thereby a community is made safe from scofflaws, as well as, say, a grandmother whose back might have been hurting too much one day to pick up every last dropping left by her Shih Tzu.

Here in my current home state, North Carolina, apartment complexes in Winston-Salem and Wilmington are among the growing number of property management companies and government entities turning to PooPrints.

Yes, dog poop can be hazardous to our health, and harmful to the environment.

So can the feces of all the non-domesticated animals we live among, but don’t feel compelled to prosecute for pooping.

danriversludgeSo, too, can the dumpage of corporate entities, like the thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge.

That’s a little harder to pick up after, and, I’d suggest, at least as deserving of society’s consternation and oversight and vigilance as dog poop — even if punishing the culprit won’t make them change their ways. (Big companies, unlike the average dog owner, can hire lawyers to avoid fines, and, if unsuccessful, they just pass the costs along to their customers.)

Finding clean sources of energy — that’s a use of technology I like. Using DNA to solve murders  (and clear the wrongly convicted) seems a good use,  too.

But gathering, packaging and mailing dog poop so technicians in Tennessee can comb through it and test it, by comparison, seems a silly use of our technological muscles.

In Colorado, Boulder officials say dog waste on public trails is one of the most common complaints the city receives, so it’s not surprising that they’d turn to a company that claims to have the solution.

Eric Mayer, director of business development for BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., said the company’s PooPrint service is used by private property management companies in 45 states and in Canada. Franchises are popping up all over, like Burger Kings.

So far, the company doesn’t have contracts with any municipalities, but officials have been in talks with a half dozen different local governments. He said he expects to sign the first municipal PooPrints contract with Ipswich, Mass., sometime this year.

Maybe, if poop detection continues to catch on, it would be good for the economy. Maybe, you too could have a fulfilling career as a dog poop laboratory technician.

But there are far better ways to spend our time and money, and far bigger problems more deserving of our rage. Between all the emotion, and all the technology, we seem to forget that we can simply …

Pick it up!

(Top photo, fake poop question mark, from Big Mouth Toys; bottom photo, sludge from the Dan River spill, courtesy of Dan River Basin Association)

L.A. flaw: Where’s a downtown dog to pee?

downtownlapee

Downtown Los Angeles is enjoying a spurt in growth, and with that has come a growth in spurts.

But just where in that concrete Shangri-La-La is a dog supposed to pee?

With the revitalization of downtown, and a campaign to attract upwardly mobile types (and their dogs), more of both are relocating to the area — only to find that convenient places for dogs to urinate weren’t part of the makeover, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The latest attempt to address the problem has been to locate small — and we do mean small — patches of artificial turf in areas designated (by humans) for canine toileting needs. As you can see above, it’s hardly a dog park.

Blair Besten, executive director of the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District, said patches began being installed in August as part of a trial run. Three tree wells that no longer contained trees, in spaces away from restaurants and heavy pedestrian traffic, were used to install 4-by-4-foot patches of artificial grass.

If they’re popular and hold up to regular use, the program may be expanded, Besten told the newspaper.

By redirecting dogs to the patches, she said, the city can cut down on odors, peed-upon buildings, sidewalks and trash cans, and the residue that is tracked into offices and apartments. The patches are located at Spring and 7th, near the corner of 7th and Main, and on 6th just after Main. 

“They should have put them in a long time ago,” said downtown resident Helena Gaeta, who has trained her dachshund-Chihuahua mix to go in tree wells.  While downtown advertising campaigns targeted dog owners, she noted, there isn’t much greenspace available to dogs.

A survey by the Downtown Center Business Improvement District this year showed one of every three residents of the area owns a dog.

“Dogs have been the greatest thing for the downtown L.A. renaissance,” said Hal Bastian, executive vice president of the district. ”It creates a community because more people are on the streets. It’s a better environment.”

But even with dog owners scooping up poop — and, of course, not all do — pee remains a problem.

Not all dogs find the patches pee-worthy. Josh Jacobson, who recently moved from downtown Long Beach, said his two Chihuahuas avoid the turf patches, possibly because they hold too many scents.

“The dogs are still trying to figure it out,” he said.

(Photo: One of the patches of artificial turf installed in downtown L.A.; by Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times )

Much ado about poo in Spain

There might not be any town as intent — you might even say obsessed — with wiping out dog poop as Brunete, Spain.

First, officials in the town on the outskirts of Madrid launched a social awareness campaign, aimed at encouraging pet owners to pick up after their dogs.

Part of it included a remote control pile of poop on wheels, which approached citizens bearing the message “Don’t leave me, pick me up!”

“The amount of dog poo on our streets dropped considerably as a result,” a town spokesman is quoted as saying in this article.

When “volume” started rising again, the town opted for a sneakier approach — though it, too, has an in-your-face element.

In February of this year, officials in the town of 10,100 assigned 20 volunteers to patrol the streets in search of dog owners who don’t pick up after their dogs.

Upon seeing an offense, the undercover volunteers approach the owners and strike up a casual conversation — not mentioning the poop, just feigning interest in the dog and asking about its name and breed.

Once the dog walker departs, the volunteer would pick up the dog poop and put it in a box. Then, using the town’s database of registered dogs, they find out the address of the dog walker. Then they’d deliver the surprise package by hand to the pet owner’s home, along with an official warning.

If that weren’t embarassing enough, they film the reunions between dog owners and their dog’s poop.

Brunete Town Hall estimates the program has reduced the amount of unpicked up dog waste by 70 percent.

Officials aren’t sure whether it’s the threat of the fine, receiving a package of poop, or getting humiliated on camera that’s doing the trick, but they say the program seems to be working.

The art of peeing in the snow

yellowsnow

 
There’s a heated debate going on about yellow snow over at “Unleashed,” the Baltimore Sun pets blog.

It all got started when a reader — seeing no art whatsover in what happens when hot yellow dog urine splashes onto cold and pure white snow — expressed her displeasure with befouled snow, and went so far as to suggest dog owners chisel, collect and dispose of the icy yellow matter.

“I’m not a dog owner, but I can’t be the only person to be grossed out while trying to walk in Baltimore right now,” wrote Eeda Wallbank. “After the snow last week there are still many areas where the sidewalk or street is the only cleared space for folks to take their dogs out for their business. Most people are still being polite and at least picking the poo up, but the urine is just disgusting.

“The dog goes in the only cleared walk space and urinates, then it freezes. So everyone else has to walk through or attempt to go around these ‘puddles.’ Heaven forbid someone actually slip on ice or snow and fall into greater contact. I shudder everytime I see the yellow snow and thank god I don’t have kids to worry about (my cats are my babies, but they stay firmly inside) … Dog owners carry around bags for poo, what would be so wrong with attempting to remove this frozen urine? Or at least have a small shovel to clear the walk space a little?”

That led to a flood/flurry of comments. Among those that poured in were some siding with Ms. Wallbank, a few suggesting she “get a life,” and many asking if society doesn’t have bigger things to worry about than yellow snow.

Scooping poop is one thing. But I don’t think we need yellow snow laws — even if it does offend the sensibilities of  Ms. Wallbank and others. It’s a fact of life. It passes (twice, in fact). Until the snow melts, step around it, add it to the list of unavoidable wintertime inconveniences, or maybe even try and view it as modern art — a canine, working by instinct, on a vast blank canvas, provided by nature .

It’s a little like that, with one big difference. With yellow snow, everybody knows exactly what the artist was trying to express.

(Artwork: “Yellow Snow,” by John Woestendiek)

Eggs-acting revenge on barking dogs

novodogrunAn angry tenant in a luxury condominium that backs up to the Park Slope dog run in New York’s Washington Park has been hurling eggs at dogs and owners who use the run at night, according to the New York Post.

“Before I knew it — ‘whack’ on my shoulder and ‘splat’ on the ground,” said Ilene Cohen, 55, who was hit by an egg three weeks ago. “I looked up, but I didn’t see anybody.”

Cohen said her black Labrador, Ace, wasn’t making any noise, but other dogs were barking at the time.

Kimberly Maier, the executive director of the Old Stone House, a historic center inside the park, said Cohen’s egging was the second of three aerial assaults, which were first reported by the website Brownstoner.com.

“It’s not a group of people doing it. It’s probably one person,” Maier said.

The condominium board has notified the local police precinct about the incidents, Maier said.

The 12-story luxury building known as Novo 343 opened less than two years ago — about the same time the dog run did.

Brownstoner.com reported a first incident in beginning of December, as well as a second incident last week.

(Photo: Brownstoner.com)

Dogs often scapegoats in gentrification wars

dsc04136

 
It’s a familiar chain of events in many a city — a particular neighborhood, usually by virtue of its location, emerges as desirable. Young and affluent people move in. Real estate prices rise and, with them, taxes. The old neighborhood bars get upscaled. Mom and pop shops close down. Oldtimers start leaving. A Whole Foods opens. Then you step in dog poop.

The fancy word for it is gentrification — and while dogs are, for the most part, innocent bystanders (byrunners? bypoopers?) they often seem to surface as the issue around which gentrifications wars play out.

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between a recent story out of Venice, California, appearing in the Santa Monica Daily Press, and our situation right here in South Baltimore.

The  story looked at a growing conflict between long-time black and Latino members of a Venice neighborhood and affluent newcomers and their dogs. Long-time residents are complaining about the presence of off-leash dogs in the park.

“When families in the neighborhood see the blatant disregard for the law and there is signage throughout the park, it sends a message that they’re above the law and privileged,” said Lydia Ponce, who serves on the Oakwood Park Advisory Board, “It sets up a cultural divide.”

Dog owners, meanwhile, say they are simply seeking a place for their dogs to run — an activity that, properly monitored, impinges on no one’s rights or space. “We’re law-abiding citizens and we don’t want to get tickets for exercising dogs in the morning,” said Dr. Douglas Stockel, who has lived in Venice for five years.

Read more »

Bark now, or forever hold your leash

 

Dogs bark when something’s amiss. We humans sign petitions. The time has come to do a little of both.

Not to many working people have the leeway to attend a 10 a.m. City Council meeting, but for those who can, Tuesday’s meeting in city hall represents a rare opportunity to let city leaders know not just that their $1,000 fine for an off leash dog is out of line, but that the time has come to make this a more dog-friendly city.

How? By coming through with promised dog parks, by instituting off leash hours, at least on an experimental basis at a city park or two, and by not dumping on that substantial population of voters that has dogs.

Petitions calling upon the city to reduce the recently imposed $1,000 fine for letting a dog off its leash are now circulating around town and online. You can find, and sign, the online version here.

At tomorrow’s meeting the city will take up a proposal to reduce the fine. Also introduced will be an amendment authored by council member William Cole that would allow the city’s director of recreation and parks to enact off leash hours at city parks — something that currently can’t be done because of the leash law. Cole’s amendment would exempt city-approved off leash hours from the law.

Of course, that doesn’t mean off leash hours will be approved, only that they can be.

Cole said he expects the fine reduction and the off-leash authorization to eventually be approved by the council.

“Yes, I believe that both will get support for a majority of the Council,” he said. “There appears to be rather broad support for the off-leash language, but I haven’t started counting votes.”

Tuesday’s meeting is a hearing (on Bill 09-0322) before the Judiciary & Legislative Investigations Committee. The committee is chaired by Councilman Jim Kraft, and its other members are Robert Curran, Rikki Spector, Agnes Welch and Cole.

The meeting is in the City Council Chambers on the 4th floor of City Hall. (A picture ID required for admission to City Hall.)

A fine day for a March for the Animals

Rain or shine, $1,000 fines or no $1,000 fines, The March for the Animals takes place tomorrow at Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park — and what better way to show this sometimes less than dog-friendly city how much you care about your dog and all dogs.

Not to tarnish the Maryland SPCA’s largest fundraiser of the year with politics, but it is an opportunity — in addition to having fun and raising money for homeless animals — to take stock of our numbers, and realize that for every four paws pounding the pavement tomorrow, there’s usually one or two registered voters behind them.

The past couple of weeks in the city of Baltimore have served as an example of what can happen when a community of dog lovers is uninformed and unconnected. And what can happen when they unite.

It was revealed that the city had raised the fines for unleashed dogs ten-fold, to $1,000, with little effort made to inform us about it, either before or after the fact. And this in a city that has yet to open a single government-funded dog park. (Several council members say they plan to try and revise the law and lower the fine Monday.)

It’s time for dog lovers to unite, and for “dog park” groups to unite — again, we use the term loosely, since the city has yet to open an official dog park. (The only one that exists is in Canton, and it was built by private donations.) The March for the Animals is an excellent opportunity to let the networking begin, and, of course, the ohmidog! booth will welcome any rabble-rousing activists who care to gather there.

Again, the day isn’t about politics, but there’s no reason we can’t at least make initial contact, and exchange emails and phone numbers, amid all the fun, festivities and fund-raising.

At the ohmidog! booth, we’ll be holding contests (free Furminators will be among the prizes), bringing back our popular “Kiss My Ace” kissing booth, and offering our new hand-made, all-natural dog treats, ohmidog-O’s” all profits from the sale of which will be turned over to the Maryland SPCA.

The march runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; registration begins at 9:00 a.m. Sunshine is predicted in the morning, with rain expected to hold off until later in the day, so the event won’t likely be the soggy affair it was last year.

It’s still not too late to raise pledges for the March, the Maryland SPCA says, by asking your friends, family members and co-workers to sponsor you and your dog. Bring your pledges and donations to the event. With at least $30 in donations, you receive a doggie bandana and goody bag. With $40 and over, you also receive a March for the Animals T-shirt.

Additional information is available at the March for the Animals website, and if you need some help figuring out how to get there, here’s a map.

Among the day’s highlights:

  • A ribbon cutting ceremony with Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes, which will be filmed for his Food Network show (10:00 a.m.). 
  • The march itself – 1.5 miles around the lake with your dogs at your leisure (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.).
  • A Canine Agility Course, courtesy of Oriole Dog Training Club, where your dog can run through tunnels and jump through hoops (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.).
  • Consultations with a pet communicator (limited to 20 people; 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.). 
  • Discount micro-chipping; it’s only $25 at the micro-chipping table (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.). 
  • Sign your pet up to appear in the 2010 SPCA Pet Calendar and have a photo of your pet taken for the calendar for $50. The fee includes a 2010 calendar(10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.).
  • A demonstration by Mid-Atlantic Disc Dogs (11:00 a.m. to noon).
  • Training tips from the SPCA’s Training and Behavior Manager (11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.). 
  • A Pet Costume Contest with celebrity judges and the Muttiest Mutt Contest (11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.).  
  • Councilman to hear dog owners’ concerns

    City Councilman Ed Reisinger has agreed to meet with concerned dog owners Thursday evening at Riverside Park to discuss the city’s ten-fold increase on fines for off-leash dogs and failing to pick up waste.

    The law officially went into effect in February, though only this month has the city started handing out the $1,000 citations, most of them during sneak raids at city parks.

    While the legislation went through all the proper channels, the city did little to notify dog owners of the increased cost of the violations before launching a series of sweeps in parks this spring. Animal control officers issue the tickets, while police stand by.

    The meeting is both open, and open-air. It’s scheduled for Thursday, April 16, at 7 p.m. in the Riverside Park pavilion.

    In addition to concerns that the penalties are exorbitant, some dog owners feel well-behaved dogs under voice control should be given a chance to run off leash — either in particular parts of the park, or at certain hours of the day.

    Reisinger has graciously agreed to hear those concerns, and explain the rationale behind the increased penalties.

    Baltimore has only one dog park, in Canton, which was built with donations and private funds. It’s the only place in the city, other than your own property, where your dog can legally be off leash.

    The city plans to open its first city-funded dog park at Latrobe Park in Locust Point later this year, and Mayor Dixon has promised more, but a recent round of budget cutbacks may put their future in doubt.

    A special jacket for dog walking?

    When it comes to the “K-Rosco Utility Jacket,” custom made for dog walking, I’m torn, which is something that’s probably never going to happen to the jacket … what with its “rip-stop, wind-resistant and waterproof fabric and special seam sealing.”

    The yuppie in me wants one. The cynical/rational/broke side of me — not so much.

    A special coat for dog walking? What could be sillier? But then I think about all the pocket shuffling I go through on the average trip to the dog park — where did I put the leash? My keys? The cell phone? The poop bags? The treats? The water bottle?

    Chances are, some of those are still in the other jacket back home, still hanging on the hook.

    My general procedure, when heading to the park with the dog, is to pick the coat that’s the dirtiest and wear it, for it is only going to get dirtier. I won’t mention any names, but there are dogs that like to jump up on me. Usually though, I ask for it. Once there, I forget what I have in which pocket. The only sure rule is that the item I require will be in the last pocket I search.

    So yes, Easter Bunny, I would probably make excellent use of the K-Rosco Utility Jacket with it’s everything-in-its-place sensibility, not to mention its “versatility, functionality and fashion.” I would probably make use of all four jackets it converts into — one for winter, spring summer and fall.

    I’m quite sure it would protect me from ”the bitter chill of winter (full jacket), unpredictable rains of spring and fall (lightweight shell), to the heat of summer (lightweight vest) — and that its “reflective piping” will increase my odds of getting across the street without being mowed down on those late evening excursions.

    After a brief learning period, I’m sure I’d get to the point where I would know at once to go to the specially designed cargo pocket for an extractable poop pick-up bag, to the pocket with the removable plastic pocket liner for the dog treats, and where to locate my retractable coil key clip, and mesh water bottle holder, and so on. And the time might come as well that I needed to make use of its belt, which converts into an extra leash, or can be rigged for hands-free dog walking.

    The dogwalker’s jacket is made by Let’s Go Designs, Inc. which says it is “dedicated to offering products that enhance the relationship and responsibility between dog owners and their ‘best friends.’” A noble cause — even if it does mean we have come to this: Not just special clothing for our dogs, but special clothing we wear when we are with our dogs.

    Then there’s this: It sells for $265.

    It seems absurd, on one hand. On the other, I want it.


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