Dealing with Pet Waste in Your Community
Over 65% of households in the United States have pets, and many of them have dogs. Dogs can often cause conflict in any community association – and the largest cause of such conflict is, usually the waste, or more specifically how that waste is dealt with by the owners.
Irresponsible dog owners will often let their dogs make a mess on sidewalks, on lawns, and in other common areas. Dog waste is not just unsightly but can be a health hazard, especially when there are young children around. Community Associations may have a responsibility for handling pet waste, especially if you are managing common areas that include green space. Here are some tips:
Install Pet Waste Stations
The biggest thing you can do to reduce the amount of dog waste in your community is to install pet waste stations. Much of the time when owners don't clean up after their dogs it's because they forgot to bring a bag or some other inconvenience. Not everyone has one of those dog harnesses with a built in bag dispenser.
Pet waste stations should be installed near areas where people commonly walk their dogs. If you have a community dog park, then you should have stations not just there but on the most common routes to and from. However, avoid putting stations in direct line of sight of somebody's window or next to playgrounds. Also avoid putting stations in areas that are partially enclosed, as this can lead to smell issues.
Stations should have both a bag dispenser and a receptacle. They also need to be emptied and collected regularly by a pet waste management company. Pet waste should not go into the regular trash.
Have a Community Policy on Pet Waste
This can be as simple as "please clean up after your pet." Make sure that you post permanent signs in prominent areas to remind people to clean up. Signs are relatively cheap. Put them next to waste stations and possibly in other areas.
You should also send out periodic reminders, especially if things seem to be getting bad; or if you can identify the offender. Send a reminder first before taking action such as assessing a fine. However, you should not be afraid to assess fines to known repeat offenders, as that might well be the only way to get them to stop.
Hire a Cleaning Service
Have a professional cleaning service to clean up the common areas as needed. If people are compliant, this may not need to be done that often, but monthly is typical. A cleaning service can also take care of animal waste from non-owned animals, such as those pesky geese which find your landscaping a perfect feeding ground. In general, only "hot spots" will need to be cleaned. Dog owners tend to congregate in particular areas.
Set up a Dog Park
If you don't have a dog park, have a lot of pet owners, and have the space it's worth considering actually setting aside a fenced dog park. This will generally concentrate dog waste problems on the park and the area around it and may help keep the rest of the community cleaner.
Educate Pet Owners
Another key aspect is to educate people. When you send out reminders, include information about why it is important for them to clean up after their pets. Make sure that everyone in the community knows that dog waste can attract flies, cause disease, even attract rats and other vermin. If that's not enough to convince them, remind them that a major pet waste problem can actually affect the price of their home.
Pet waste is going to be a problem if your community is pet friendly. Managing it is vital. In fact, your community is not pet friendly if you don't provide proper facilities to help owners safely clean up after their pets. Proper pet waste management improves property values, reduces conflict over animals, and keeps pet owners and non pet owners both happy.