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VOL. 129 | NO. 127 | Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Downtown Officials Launch ‘Scoop the Poop’ Campaign

By Amos Maki

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Downtown Memphis has overcome obstacle after obstacle as it re-emerged from the ashes of suburban flight and urban renewal.

But as Downtown’s residential population has steadily climbed over the last several years a new urban menace has reared its head, or tail, to be more precise: dog poop.

Downtown officials and residents say parts of Downtown have become a dumping ground for irresponsible dog owners who don’t pick up the messes their pooches leave behind.

“I would say the residential growth is impacting the number of pets we have, which impacts the need for people to pick up after themselves,” said Leslie Gower, vice president of marketing and communications for the Downtown Memphis Commission.

A growing number of four-legged residents Downtown has caused a messy problem, as many of those dog owners aren’t cleaning up after their pets.

(Daily News File/Kyle Kurlick)

“We don’t have the numbers but we think there are more dogs than children Downtown and when you have that many pets in a confined area it gets tricky, especially when people don’t pick up after themselves.”

The DMC has launched a scoop-the-poop campaign to combat the problem, including engaging the Downtown creative firm Cat & Fish to produce a six-part Web-based video series called “Canine Confessions” that features dogs whose owners don’t pick up their droppings.

The DMC has installed around 10 stations with biodegradable poop bags in many “hot spots” for pets – which is pretty much any green space in the Downtown core – and is encouraging residents and workers to remind pet owners they see on the street to pick up after their pets. The DMC plans to install two more stations in the fast-growing South Main Historic Arts District.

“We still see people with their dogs walk right by those stations and let those dogs poop on the ground,” said Gower. “This is our shame campaign.”

In one of the videos, a canine expresses its horror at its owner’s practice of leaving dog droppings where they fall.

“There’s a lot of information in my leave behinds,” barks the beagle. “I’m tired of other dogs sniffing my poop piles around to get gossip about my business. It’s embarrassing and all my owner has to do is pick up the pile.”

Urban planners and residents have for centuries tried to solve the droppings dilemma to no avail. Some cities offer rewards, such as free Wi-Fi access, to dog owners who retrieve waste while others shame offending owners by publishing their names. Naples, Italy, has taken a more scientific approach, taking dog DNA in an attempt to tie waste left in public to the offending dog and owner.

As long as there have been people and pets in urban environments, disposing of pet waste properly has been an issue, but it has recently become more pronounced in Downtown, which has experienced a significant surge in population. According to population estimates, the 2013 residential population of Downtown was around 24,000, an 18 percent increase since 2000.

While the fecal phenomenon may draw some eye rolls and chuckles, the problem can pose health risks for humans and pooches alike. When not disposed of properly, animal waste, which may contain harmful organisms like Salmonella and E. Coli, is carried directly into waterways by storm water. Roundworms, hookworms and other parasites deposited by infected animals can live in the soil for long periods of time and can be transmitted to other animals and humans.

“I wouldn’t call it the greatest problem, but from a quality of life standpoint it is an issue,” said Brian Douglass, owner of Guidingpoint Financial Group and president of the South Main Association.

Douglass said that while most dog owners act responsibly, the few bad apples have created quite a stink.

“With the majority of the folks it’s not an issue,” he said. “There is 10 to 20 percent who don’t pick up and those are the ones I usually find with my shoes.”

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