There are two categories of dog walkers: those who usually clean up after their dog, and those who usually don’t.
Signs appealing to dog owners’ good will aren’t likely to change the behavior of those in the second group. Signs threatening fines probably won’t — unless there is imminent danger of an enforceable citation. How about a thorough explanation of the pollution of groundwater sources or parasite-borne disease? I don’t think so.
Situation hopeless? Not quite. Here’s a sign that might just work. I saw it a few weeks back in a lovely residential area north of Lincoln Park in Chicago.
Yeah, there’s the threat of a fine, but that isn’t what gets your attention. No, it’s the mental image of rats feasting on dog poop coupled with the sign’s illustration of a pair of these fat poop-fed rats dogging the heels of someone just like you.
They’re bold fat rats, aren’t they, following you and your dog on your walk, just waiting for you to let your dog leave them a treat. Man and dog are both oblivious, but these rats, with their big bellies and little feet and curly tails, are wiggling their snouts and whiskers, waiting to feast on the next pile of poop. They’ve no need to bother with scrounging in the dumpsters. They get their meals delivered at least once a day. By you.
Now I don’t know if rats really eat dog waste, but it wouldn’t surprise me; after all, dogs sometimes eat dog waste (and cat waste as well). The chance they might would be enough for me. I don’t want rats in my neighborhood, and I especially don’t want poop-fattened ones following me around.
I wonder if this campaign will work. Surely somewhere in Chicago there’s a sociology or public health or some kind of student in need of a thesis topic. So here’s an idea. Canvas several neighborhoods without these signs for piles of poop, persuade the city to add the signs, and go back for recounts. My hypothesis is as the signs appear, the piles will disappear.