Sextiped Valley column: Why not make it easy to be good?
The Denver Post had a front page article (12/10) titled: “Apartment complexes using DNA testing to keep dog owners in check.”
After explaining how the technology works to identify dogs whose owners don’t pick up their poop so that landlords can fine and potentially even evict them, it quoted Drew Hamrick, senior vice president of government affairs for the Apartment Association of Metro Denver: “If someone has a disability, they need a service animal. And at that point you might as well open the doors for any pet.”
It goes on to describe how landlords require tenants to submit a cheek swab or tuft of fur from their pets, have maintenance collect and process “samples” from poop not picked up, and then contract with a lab to identify offenders so they can be punished. Fines start at $100 and some even have a three-strikes policy of evicting repeat offenders.
As the shift increases of accepting pets in rental housing, including the many new local multi-family complexes, the problem of pet waste disposal looms. To some, the DNA swab to identify offenders may seem like a good approach. But I wonder why we don’t look at why pet owners frequently fail to do the right thing, and then address those reasons.
Picture this: You live on the third floor of a complex. Your dog signals the need to “go.” It’s 11 p.m. and pouring rain, so you hasten into outer wear, grab a bag, leash up your dog and make your way to the elevator. Down you go, and out into the rain. Your dog is as reluctant as you are, and the designated potty area — if you’re lucky enough to have one — is a long wet slog ahead. You slog, he poops, you pick up the steaming, fragrant mess and realize you have to go to the dumpster behind the building to dispose of the bag, and after you do, your dog, who hurried to get it done didn’t quite finish and produces another deposit.
Uh-oh, no more bags. You take your wet dog back to the apartment, consider whether a $100 fine is worth the risk, decide it’s not, fetch another bag and go back, find the wayward turd, bag it and put it in the dumpster. By now you are soaked to the skin.
The EPA and the CDC both attest that flushing dog poop is the most sanitary and ecological disposal method. So why are we still in the plastic bag-to-dumpster-to-landfill mode? There is a product called the Powerloo which, by connecting a flushable receptacle to a sewer or septic and water line, allows for a convenient, sanitary and ecological way to dispose of poop.
Here’s the alternative scenario: You leash up your dog and head down to the parking garage where there is a sheltered dog comfort station. He produces his offering. You seize the well-designed scoop, open the receptacle with your foot on the pedal, drop in the poop, close the lid and flush. You notice a bit of a smear on the artificial turf and hose it down with the convenient spray hose. You let your dog sniff around to make sure he’s done. And then you both go home, dry and comfortable.
Why not make this obvious and simple accommodation to the fact that dogs will poop and that owners having to cope with layers of inconvenience, mess and discomfort may frequently ignore the rules? Doesn’t it make more sense to install sanitary and ecologically superior waste disposal systems that encourage owners, by making it easier, to do the right thing?
Why skip over low-tech and affordable measures that reward responsible behavior and jump right to expensive and draconian protocols to catch and punish offenders?
Something as simple as the investment in several Powerloo installations — a few thousand dollars to equip a 100 unit apartment building — would bespeak a truly pet-friendly management, vs. a mere grudging tolerance of pets. When it comes to amenities meaningful to dog owners, I can hardly imagine a better one, giving a valuable competitive edge to property managers and showing responsible and loyal pet owning tenants that they are valued and welcome.
Is it really so outlandish? After all, in our basic biology of digestion and elimination, we are identical. Since we find it sanitary, convenient, ecologically and economically beneficial to flush our waste and process it with good management systems, why would we not apply the same technology to their waste, when we so intimately share all other aspects of our lives together?
Powerloos can also be installed into existing sewer/septic systems. What are we waiting for?
Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.
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