By Mike Wehner, Tecca

There's nothing that can ruin a good day faster than accidentally stepping in a pile of dog excrement. It's messy, smelly, and downright disgusting. What's more, you can't really blame the dog, as it's the owner's responsibility to make sure the putrid piles are taken care of. That's the thinking behind a new policy at a condominium in Florida, where the problem of wayward poop has gotten so bad, the management is turning to DNA testing to find the culprits.

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There are over 71 million dogs in the US with 63% of American households owning at least one. Half of these households have more than one dog and 45% of these dogs are 40 lbs or larger. By every indication, the trend in increased pet ownership will continue and by offering a pet friendly community to potential residents you appeal to a broader demographic thereby increasing your competitiveness in the housing market. However, all of these dogs can add up to a lot of disgusting waste, detracting from the beauty of your community, increasing resident complaints and causing a headache for landscapers, building maintenance and community management. In addition to being disgusting, if pet waste is not cleaned up on a regular basis, it can breed flies, kill grass and transmit disease.

In an effort to minimize the issue of pet waste, many communities implement breed restrictions, weight limits or both. Some communities simply prohibit pets. Those communities that allow dogs usually have rules requiring owners to pick up after their pets but while most dog owners are conscientious it only takes an irresponsible few to “soil” the reputation of all dogs and their owners. The reality that many community managers soon face is that enforcement of pet policies is difficult at best, ineffective at worst, always expensive, and usually strains relationships within the community.

Many community management professionals find that the most effective approach to the pet waste problem is implementation of a 3 part program. This program consists of;

1. Policy enforcement and education,
2. Pet waste station installation and
3. Regular cleaning of high use and neglected areas.

This comprehensive approach encourages residents by providing them with the tools they need to conveniently clean up after their pets and discourages “re-soiling” by regularly cleaning high use and neglected areas (those favorite spots where owners either fail to clean up after their pet, won't clean up after their pet or are frequented by stray and unleashed dogs). As a last resort, the program provides Management with the means to enforce community regulations.

1. The cornerstone of any comprehensive pet waste program is the implementation, education and enforcement of a reasonable pet policy. But since studies show that a significant number of pet owners (over 40%) may not pick up after their dogs, even with the threat of fine or complaints by neighbors, a second and third layer of effort are required to help control pet waste.

2. The second part of a comprehensive community pet waste program is the Pet Waste Station. Pet Waste Stations are a convenient and attractive way to provide your residents with the tools they need to hygienically pickup after their pet and dispose of the waste. Pet Waste Stations are available in a wide variety of models and price ranges but normally consist of a waste bag dispenser, stocked with biodegradable bags, mounted with a disposal bin. A pet waste cleanup professional can assist you in determining what type of station would be most appropriate for your facility and can advise you on placement and complete the installation. More importantly, a pet waste cleanup professional can regularly service your pet waste stations, on a schedule customized to suit your particular needs, replenishing bags and cleaning the bin, to ensure your pet waste station remains an effective and attractive tool in your community maintenance program. The cost of installing and servicing pet waste stations, as well as your entire pet waste control program, can easily be recovered from pet deposits and fees.

3. Finally, the third part of a comprehensive pet waste management program is ensuring that high use and neglected areas are regularly and thoroughly cleaned. Heavily soiled areas of any community will repeatedly attract stray and loose dogs. These areas should be routinely cleaned of all pet waste, disinfected if needed and have an organic odor eliminator applied to reduce the attraction to dogs. Here again, a pet waste cleanup professional can assist you by providing regularly scheduled cleaning, disinfecting and odor elimination. So to attract the most desirable residents to your community by maintaining a healthy, attractive facility free of pet waste, without the headaches, complaints and strained relations that are usually associated with the “enforcement only” approach to dogs and their owners, consider implementing a comprehensive pet waste cleanup program consisting of Pet Waste Stations, routine cleanup and if absolutely necessary, enforcement of regulations. A Pet Waste Cleanup professional can assist you in solving your dog waste problems for far less than you may think.

If you do choose to hire a professional pet waste cleanup service as part of your comprehensive program ensure they use all natural products that are safe around children and animals, that the waste bags used are biodegradable, that they disinfect their tools and shoes prior to servicing your facility, and that they are fully bonded and insured.

Article written by Niki Tudge. Featured in the Florida Journal of Association Management 2008