City Dump

Because of lazy canine owners, Dallas is full of crap

Black loathes the dustbin-style scoopers because the metal is streaked and stained with fecal matter. Bags, she says, are cleaner and more efficient. But there is the indelicacy of stooping to pick up crap and the sensation of feces through the plastic.

Boswell, who claims to be No. 1 in the No. 2 business, says he's heard all the excuses, even that excrement is fertilizing the lawn. It does not, and it can't be composted. The protein-based excrement burns the lawn and typically takes more than a year to disintegrate. Rain and running sprinklers, he says, only worsen the matter by "melting" the piles, making them more difficult to extract.

A self-proclaimed "poop Evangelist," Boswell says that cleaning up the stools protects dogs, kids, neighborhoods, shoes and oneself.

"Don't dump in Dallas. We all live downstream," says Frances Verhalen, a senior manager with the city's storm water management division.

Verhalen says people assume that it's OK for dogs to defecate in public parks but don't realize that the feces doesn't go away.

A child might wave bye-bye to his poop as it swirls down the commode and makes its way to various treatment plants that rid waste of harmful bacteria. But poop in gutters, sidewalks, lawns and parks washes right into the storm drains and is carried untreated to creeks and water sheds where a bacteria soup simmers in the warm, shallow waters, especially in summer. Additionally, high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus feed algae, which chokes the oxygen in water and leads to fish kills and dead or dying water systems.

Dallas has been lucky so far, Verhalen says. There have been no major algal blooms and no dead zones simply because of the abundance of open spaces. "It's important to remember that we're an urbanized area," she says. "We've concentrated all our natural processes into a small area. What we do and how we do it will affect our neighbor two blocks over."

There are a number of excuses for sidestepping poop patrol. Dog owners "forget" their plastic bags. Hey, it's a natural function--a bear in the woods and all. They make distinctions between the size and consistency of the waste and whether it was laid on-the-path or off-the-path, on sunny days or rainy days. (It washes away, right? Wrong.)

There are alternatives to plastic bags and tiny scoopers to aid this necessary evil. "There are some rather civilized contraptions now in practically any pet store," Peggy Post says. "Scoopers on sticks so you don't have to bend over. There are ways to make it at least a little more dignified for some people."

For people worried that raising the issue with a friend or neighbor might get their names crossed off the pool party list, Post recommends lodging anonymous complaints with a neighborhood association that can run a general reminder for the public. Homeowners might also consider posting signs such as New York City's "Curb Your Dog."

This is exactly the approach Gaye Martin, publisher of the Swiss Avenue Historic District newsletter, The Occasion, took last month. Martin included a reminder to 250 of her gentle readers that the city has a pooper scooper law.

"Swiss Avenue has a beautiful median, but you can hardly walk through it without stepping on--stuff," Martin says. "I'm trying to raise the collective consciousness. We lived in Switzerland for a while where they have boxes you get bags out of and can dispose of the waste right there. I just don't understand why people don't pick it up. It seems barbaric."

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