5 Ways Communities Persuade Dog Owners to Pick Up Poo

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

Photo: Arnel Manalang/iStockphoto .

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.