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A River of Poop

by Stacy Conroy

With spring showers come… rivers of dog poop? So said one caller who recently left a message on the Currents’ voice mail saying there was a “river of dog poop” on the sidewalk in front of her house. It is that time of year when all the hidden trash, debris and yes, dog poop, is grotesquely revealed as the snow melts and the rains wash it around. It seems there should be a way to keep poop from ever remaining on the lawns and sidewalks of our neighborhood — but that would mean every dog owner would be responsible enough to pick it up immediately following its deposit. Well, why not? Last year in Frankfurt, Germany, lawmakers decided to create an ordinance where all dogs must wear a clearly marked license plate-style ID tag when outside on a walk. The idea is that anyone has the right to record the number on the ID tag if they see a dog defecate and the owner does not clean up the mess. They can report this number to officials and the dog owner receives a fine in the mail. Other European cities are considering similar changes to help curtail the unsanitary effects of irresponsible dog walking. In Paris a brigade of municipal motorbike riders use special vacuum hoses to go around and suck up the canine crud under foot. In the UK some officials are considering undercover surveillance in strategic areas to crack down. Even in Boulder, Colorado, a man used a global positioning device to chart piles of dog feces along a trail to try to convince city leaders to ban dogs from the area. Some may call these tactics fascist but they could be a way to solve a long-standing problem within densely populated neighborhoods. Because all dogs would have to have a tag, it would dramatically increase the number of city licenses purchased for dogs, thus bringing in tens of thousands of much-needed dollars for municipalities. According to the city treasurer’s office, only 10,007 dogs were licensed in the city of Milwaukee last year. Considering national surveys show almost 50% of households have at least one dog, just a fraction of them are being licensed in Milwaukee. One difficulty would be forcing owners to put the tags on their dogs when out on a walk. Police would have to actually stop people whose dogs aren’t wearing the tag and use citations as incentive for obeying the rule. In time, more and more people would be less and less likely to let their dog defecate on others’ lawns, knowing someone could be watching and writing down the dog’s tag number. Just as we can take down the license plate of a car involved in criminal behavior, why not the number of a dog whose owner is basically littering in the worst way? It could be just that easy if the Department of Neighborhood Services Nuisance Abatement Program and the Milwaukee Police Department decided to take it seriously.
by Stacy Conroy