Amanda Lutey

Lutey

Blissfully warm weather has melted away the snow, but has revealed something unpleasant in its wake.

They’re land mines for those who don’t always watch where they walk; the piles left behind by dog owners who fail to pick up after their pooches.

Stepping in a lawn “biscuit” leaves behind a mess and stench that no amount of wiping, washing or spraying with air freshener seems able to eradicate. You may as well throw the shoes away.

It has happened to all of us at some point. My father liked to share the story of the day he brought home a new Chevy Blazer. My sister and I raced to it to take the inaugural family ride. She cut through the grass outside our apartment building to beat me into the vehicle. She proceeded to climb over the seats into the way back.

The problem?

She stepped in something in the yard, and tracked it through Dad’s shiny new ride. It took a lot of scrubbing to clean up the mess. That new car smell did not last long in the onslaught.

It’s one thing to leave the mess behind in your own yard, but allowing a dog to defecate in someone else’s yard or a public space and then just leaving the mess there is irresponsible, rude, a public health hazard, and a violation of Beaver Dam city ordinance.

I recently discovered the joy of going for an early morning run, most often with friends who push me to go farther and faster, and the dim light in the morning makes it hard to spot hazards like dog piles.

Our running route often takes us around the block near the Beaver Dam Family Center Ice Arena, and the grass surrounding the stormwater retention pond is littered with not only goose waste, but also far too many piles of canine feces.

I get it, picking up poop is gross, as is changing a messy diaper or scooping a cat’s litter box. Those with an easily-triggered gag reflex may find it especially difficult. The only thing worse is waking up in the middle of the night to the unmistakable sound of a child retching – knowing they did not reach a toilet or trash receptacle in time.

Sometimes responsible pet owners run out of bags on a long walk. Ideally, they would follow the same route on a future walk armed with extra bags to pick up the mess made previously.

At home dog owners can buy or build a “septic” tank for dog waste. A service in Madison called Canine Butler picks up yards for people, offering bucket service, a spring cleaning or weekly pickup. Many products can help responsible pet owners, from pooper-scoopers to bags that biodegrade.

If you subscribe to the paper, the carrier may sometimes deliver copies in a plastic bag to protect it from inclement weather. It’s not ideal, as plastic takes a long time to break down, but it works in a pinch. I puppy-sat for a friend recently and made use of those bags on my walks and runs with the dog.

But how does one solve the problem of people who let their dog defecate anywhere without cleaning up after it?

New York City began requiring pet owners to pick up their pets’ messes in 1978 and issued tickets to those who violated the law. Other places found unique ways to deal with the issue. A village in Spain used volunteers to patrol the streets looking for dog owners violating the law. The volunteers would stop to talk to people who left messes behind, to learn the dog’s name and breed. When the owner departed, volunteers scooped up the mess into a government-branded box, used the dog licensing database to track down the owner’s address, and mailed the mess back to them, labeled with “Lost Property.” Violations dropped by 70 percent.

Many public parks and trails that welcome dogs provide complimentary pick-up bags. Several companies provide DNA testing to determine what kind of animal left the mess and help track down those who violate pick-up laws.

If you spot someone leaving behind a puppy pile, you could call out, “You forgot something!” and hope public shaming works. If you would prefer to avoid a confrontation and have a bag available, you could pick up the mess, follow the person home and leave it on their doorstep. Other solutions include spray-painting the waste to make it more visible to others, but that only adds to the environmental hazard.

As the weather continues to improve and people spend more time outdoors, please help keep our communities clean and pick up after your pets.