One of the many benefits of having cats is not having to walk behind them carrying a parcel of their poop. During snowstorms and rainstorms I can sit comfortably on my couch with my cat snuggled on my lap watching dog owners pass by holding their goody bags. Most people in my neighborhood are considerate about picking up their dog’s leftovers. But, when pet parents are irresponsible and don’t clean up after their dogs, what recourse does the public have?
In Madrid, citizens grew tired of the piles piling up on the sidewalks and in parks. At first, authorities tried a subtle approach as a gentle reminder to the dog owning public. They sent a motorized, plastic replica of dog poop roaming the area to remind people to clean up. The poop mobile only had marginal success so authorities went back to the drawing board to formulate a more effective plan.
I can only imagine what the conversations were like as they brainstormed a new plan. What the city finally settled on was hiring agents to act as poo police. It is their job to wander around the city in areas that are most affected and try to catch people brown-handed. These agents collect the abandoned poo, follow the owner of the creator of that poo then engage them in friendly conversation. During that chat, these defecation detectives casually find out the dog’s name and breed then use a city registry to locate the home of that dog. The poo is then packaged up and mailed back to the dog and its owner courtesy of the lost and found department. Included with the biological bounty is a note reminding the owner to be responsible lest they incur a fine the next time shit happens.
While I admire their creativity in solving this poo problem, I’m curious about a few things. What skills and previous job experience are required to land such a prestigious job as a poop collector? I’m imagining the interview for this position and can’t seem to think of a serious way to discuss this topic. How are the agents paid? By the pile? By weight? Is there an incentive program and bonus for the employee of the month? They managed to find 20 agents willing to do this dirty work, but once the poop is collected that brings to mind other questions regarding the second phase of this tough love dog owner re-education program – the mailing of the package. Do these agents hand deliver the care packages or are they mailed through the postal service? I know it gets hot in Madrid in the summer; hopefully they use some type of expedited delivery service given the perishable nature of the material being mailed. Exactly what type of packaging does one use to mail poop? A box? A bubble envelope? Sure, we can laugh about this, but according to the people keeping track of these things, inappropriate dog elimination has decreased dramatically since they began this program.
Here in the U.S., a community in northern Virginia has a more high tech method for those who poop and run. In addition to having dog licenses, this community has asked for a “sample” from each dog so that they can keep a DNA registry. I’m sure this raises issues of privacy and infringement of the dog’s civil rights, but I’ll leave those for more scholarly legal minds to ponder. This community does not have authorized poop collecting agents like they do in Spain. Everyone is deputized to collect an offending pile which is then sent to a lab for DNA analysis. Once the analysis comes back, it is cross-referenced with the DNA database they created and the dog and owner are identified. According to my source, the offenders are fined and the board for the home owners’ association keeps those names on a list to be read aloud at meetings. I wonder if they refer to it as the shit list. As a teenager, when I was in trouble, my parents often told me I was on the shit list. I thought they were kidding. I didn’t know that one really existed.
I’m all for public shaming of repeat offenders. Rather than being fined, these individuals should have to do community service cleaning up errant dog poop. It wouldn’t cost any money and it would solve the problem. As a taxpaying cat owner, I wonder how much money is being spent trying to rehabilitate these dog owners. While I don’t want to see, smell or step in these canine land mines, I don’t think it is fair for my tax dollars to be spent mailing poop back to irresponsible dog owners. We’re used to the government wasting our money on useless shit, but this is ridiculous.