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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.)


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