Pet column: Pet business offers opportunity |
Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

Back to: Local

Pet column: Pet business offers opportunity

April Fools Day marked the beginning of National Scoop the Poop Week, but it's no joke. As pet owners own up to their responsibility to protect the environment and respect shared use of neighborhoods, trails and beaches, pet waste awareness and removal is offering a niche market for entrepreneurs. Mutt Mitt stations are commonplace. A variety of simple and complex products have evolved to eliminate excuses for not picking up. The day of the "blind" or embarrassed pet owner — the one with the pristine yard and immaculate dog who never eliminates — is over. It's cool to pick up poo.

Water boards across the country are coming up with catchy phrases, poo poetry, and more to educate and influence citizens to minimize pet waste pollution. "Pick It up, it's your doodie!" is one from North Carolina. Perhaps the most creative public plea is the 101 Reasons to Pick Up Pet Waste series, including poetry, from Sonomish County Washington Public Works Surface Water Management: "Dogs can't flush", "Dogs don't have opposable thumbs," "You'll be amazed at what your dog can doo" are samples. Pet waste is expensive for pet owners and municipalities. Virtually every community has an ordinance requiring immediate pet waste pick up. Some impose fines up to $500. Removing, treating, and disposing of pet waste is an expensive community service.

Aside from practicing common courtesy, using common sense protects wild and domestic animals, humans, waterways and the soil. Pet waste is a form of pollution and poison. When rain or snow melt washes poop into storm drains, rivers and lakes, the excess nitrogen in pet waste causes algae blooms that block sunlight and deplete oxygen. Plants, fish, and other aquatic species die. Animal waste may contain harmful organisms such as giardia, salmonella and e. coli that can be transmitted by ingesting contaminated water. Roundworms and hookworms deposited by infected animals can live in the soil for long periods of time and be transmitted to both animals and people.

In addition to serious environmental impact, cleaning up pet business is serious business. A cottage industry has developed to clean yards for owners who won't. Business is booming for the Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists. Their web site features a member locator for service. Pick-up accessories have become gold mines for inventors. Repurposing a plastic bag is the most common and simple pick up tool, however some people hate feeling the waste even if they never touch it. "Poopup" is a small, hinged squeeze box and bag holder that scoops the waste with only the feel of the hard plastic "glove". Port-A-Poo — "Pick Up Where the Dog Left Off" — is designed to solve the problem of having to carry a used bag. The Port-A-Poo is an inexpensive device which clips the bag to the leash for hands free walking. In addition to the hands free benefit, there's an insulated fanny pack type product which contains odor. Pick up and carry accessories eliminate the need to remember where bags have been left for retrieval later and protects wildlife who ingest feces from disease.

The venerable pooper scooper pan and rake and the Doggie Dooley underground waste digester still do the job. For gadget lovers, and those who cannot bend easily, the "Auggiedog Poop Pick Up Tool" is a complete system featuring a stand up power device which picks up waste with the push of a button, holds the waste, then releases it into a receptacle with another button. Auggiedog has a headlight for night and stands in its own clean station between walks. The cordless electric "Power Picker" vacuums rather than augers waste. Perhaps the ultimate solution is the Paulee Clean Tec "Ashpoopie" described as the world's first and only safe, odorless, "green" solution for transforming droppings into harmless ash which can be disposed of anywhere. It's a science based product from a company which is creating a next generation toilet for third-world countries. The Ashpoopie is expected to be available at the end of 2013.

Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help "Keep Tahoe Kind." Dawn Armstrong is the executive Director.