Article Courtesy of The
By Linda Robertson
Published February 11, 2018
Nothing ruins a fine day like an unwelcome encounter with dog excrement. That
unmistakable squishing sensation underfoot triggers instant resentment. The
mess, the stench, the indignity. What’s a victim to do?
Man’s best friend has always produced
poop. But the poop disposal problem — whether it’s left in
fresh stinky piles or carelessly discarded baggies — has
become a pet peeve in cities like Miami, where the dog
population is growing faster than the human population.
There are nearly 90 million pet dogs in the United States
Dog poop scofflaws are causing friction from Homestead to
Hialeah, from Little Havana to Aventura, on sidewalks and
lawns all across a metropolis already steaming with
hostility. Beware: Your neighbors are out to catch you
The war against offenders is ramping up with the deployment
of spies, guilt mongers and camera-wielding snitches.
“It’s rude, it’s unsanitary, it’s ugly, and I am amazed that
nobody picks it up where I live,” said Gloria Ehlebracht,
who takes long walks around Coral Gables and Coconut Grove
with her rescue dog, Cooper. “There’s a guy with a French
bulldog. One of those selfish people with the attitude of
‘Me first, second and third.’ I wrote him a note to tell him
I took a picture of him and it’s not fair that I have to
clean up his poop. After that, no more issues with Mr.
An assortment of dog poop bags tossed in a trash pile
on Cardena Street in Coral Gables.
Can’t blame the dog who was never toilet-trained. It’s
the dog owner who is the real animal. Many owners flout pooper-scooper laws
mandating the removal of waste to a closed receptacle on the owner’s
property or a municipal collection station. They don’t fear fines of up to
$500 because enforcement is rare. So swales and trash pits have become
depositories for feces and assortments of colorful plastic bags — artificial
blooms on the South Florida landscape.
Residents resort to vigilante justice. They take photos
and videos and warn offenders they will be turned in to code enforcement or
exposed on social media.
“I’ve got a trash pit by my driveway and it’s filled with half a dozen bags
every day,” said Armando Acevedo of Coral Gables, who persuaded a city
inspector to post notices in the neighborhood. “Often the bags fall right
through the teeth when the garbage truck shovels it up and sit there for
another week. One time after a lady tossed her bag I followed her in my car.
I felt like a stalker. I found out where she lived and I was tempted to take
all the poop bags and dump them on her doorstep.”
His neighbors and a city commissioner urged him to do it, but he didn’t.
“What am I supposed to do?” he said. “March up and down my street accusing
people? I don’t understand how you can live in a nice place and not take
care of it.”
Shaming might work — if you have the nerve. Proliferating poop along
Edgewater Drive in Coral Gables has gotten so disgusting that neighbors are
confronting neighbors, first kindly offering empty bags as a sort of
face-saving intervention, then thrusting bulging bags as retribution for
unaltered habits. The doorman at one building has had to chase irresponsible
dog owners and their defecating pets off the grassy knoll.
Emmanuel Cabrera Muņoz properly disposes of his
doggie's poop in a plastic bag and thrown in the doggie-doo trash
can at Kennedy Dog Park in Coconut Grove.
“I called out politely to a guy who had a dog off leash
on our grounds and he reacted very defensively. It’s a delicate situation,
especially in Miami where people are capable of violent reactions,” said
Leslie Sternlieb, who recounted a scary movie theater experience of a man
climbing over the seats to stick his face in hers after she had asked him to
cease his distracting behavior.
What has become of basic civility? Why in the name of Lassie or Fido do
people treat their community like an open sewer? There are even tales of
upbraided neighbors extracting revenge with stealth poop deposits on front
stoops. One Miami resident placed a sign on his swale asking people to
refrain from dumping; the sign was defaced with poop.
Sternlieb spends part of the year in New York City, where a stronger social
contract binds neighbors.
“Your dog is an extension of you and your character,” said Sternlieb, who
walks her rescue dog Snickers three times a day. “New York is more densely
populated but I see less evidence of poop. People understand they have to
play by the rules. Pick up or you will get the hairy eyeball. I saw a
mounted police officer write a ticket in Central Park.”
Cities are installing more collection stations, some with biodegradable bags
to help prevent another environmental consequence of the poop problem: the
buildup of plastic in landfills. One brand, bioDOGradable, manufactures its
bags in India. Another brand embossed President Donald Trump’s likeness on
Homeowners’ associations are imposing control with their own rules and poop
patrols. Bellagio at Vizcaya in Miramar sent a letter declaring that “dog
waste is a health hazard and a nuisance” and advising residents to keep dogs
on leashes and use waste bags.
“Undercover security will be patrolling the community in search of violators
and will take pictures,” the letter warned.
Dog ownership etiquette has evolved radically since the days when dogs were
let out to roam freely and nobody thought twice about it. Same thing with
Societal mores have changed. They even sell leashes for children now. City
officials in Naples, Italy — where they’ve got much more serious criminal
enterprises to worry about — are cracking down on dog waste with $650 fines.
“People used to think dog poop was harmless; it was considered fertilizer
when in fact it contains more bacteria and chemicals than human poop,” said
J Retinger, CEO of BioPet Labs. “We also have way more dogs in the world.
Millenials have dogs before they have children.”
BioPet’s subsidiary, PooPrints, may be the ultimate solution for eradicating
dog poop scofflaws. The company, which has grown 40 percent since 2016,
provides a DNA testing program to 3,000 clients — primarily homeowners’
associations and building managers — in the U.S., Canada and England,
including 250 in Florida. More than 250,000 dogs are in the PooPrints
registry. Communities that implement the program require residents to test
and register their dogs. Offending poop gets tested, too, and the DNA is
matched with the offending dog. The owner faces fines or eviction.
“Property managers report a 95 to 99 percent reduction in waste,” said Ernie
Jones, PooPrints sales manager. “People know DNA testing is accurate and
will make them accountable. If you know you are going to get fined $250 to
$500 you will take a couple minutes to pick up after your dog.”
Said Retinger: “We are pet friendly. Properties that used to ban pets are
now more apt to allow them under our program.”
Dogs are tested with a cheek swab that is mailed to the PooPrints lab in
Knoxville, Tenn. Poop is tested with a collection kit that includes a
plastic scalpel for scraping off a dime-sized sample.
“Sometimes we get sent a lot more than we bargained for,” Jones said.
Residents who resist, claiming the program is a violation of their privacy,
are usually wowed by the increased cleanliness of their condo or townhouse
development, Retinger said. Sabotage is easy to detect in contaminated
samples. Samples that don’t produce a match typically unmask a resident who
is hiding an untested dog.
The program was invented by a scientist who worked in BioPet’s veterinary
“One morning he stepped in poop,” Retinger said. “He decided to track down